Inside Region 3
Midwest Region
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Meet the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area

Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area was established in southwest Indiana as the 502nd National Wildlife Refuge on September 7, 1994, after an exhaustive Environmental Impact Statement process that started in 1990. With a full time staff of three, the refuge has grown to over 9,000 acres with a target of 22,472 acres.

This river bottoms refuge is 20 miles long as the crow flies. It includes 30 miles of the lower third reach of the 162-mile, east to west flowing Patoka River – a Piankashaw Native American name meaning ‘crooked river filled with logs.”

The refuge area represents one of the most significant remnant bottomland hardwood forests in Indiana with 12,700 acres classified wetlands.

Often referred to as a “biodiversity factory” this refuge supports over 380 species of resident and migratory wildlife (239 species of birds) including the endangered Indiana bat, interior least tern, whooping crane, trumpeter swan and 62 state listed threatened and endangered species. Waterfowl, shorebirds and neotropical songbirds thrive in the diverse habitat.

Patoka River Refuge is the only refuge in the Midwest Region that deals with the production of coal and oil within the acquisition boundary.

Staff time is spent on land acquisition, seeking sources of funding and planning/coordinating with partners. Habitat restoration challenges are extensive with a focus on restoring hardwood forests (over 1,200 acres), restoration of reclaimed mine lands to native prairie grasses and forbs, invasive species control of woody and herbaceous vegetation, prescribed burning, wild cane restoration, creation of vernal pools and moist soil management units, co-op farming, rejuvenating reclaimed mine lakes with log and boulder piles and managing interior least tern nesting islands.

Public use is encouraged with over 11 miles of hiking trails maintained by a very active refuge friends group.

Bill McCoy

Sally Flatland

Refuge Manager Bill McCoy will soon reach his 48th year of service with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A graduate of Penn State University as an Interpretive Naturalist with later graduate studies in botany at Southern Illinois University and zoology at St. Cloud State University, Minnesota, McCoy’s career path took him to the Southwest, Midwest and Northeast Regions, with stops at Crab Orchard, Sherburne, Prime Hook, Erie, and Wichita Mountains refuges, and finally to the then Patoka River Wetland Management Project in 1990.
McCoy grew up in southwest Pennsylvania, the second of five siblings, living in a rural area of farming and coal mines in the valley between Laurel Mountain and Chestnut Ridge. His early pastimes included hunting, trapping, trout fishing, hiking and exploring almost always in the company of his faithful hounds.

McCoy married Valerie right out of college. She taught english and then, due to constant transferring, worked at many different jobs while keeping the home fires burning. Valerie’s favorite job involved over 1,000 hours as a volunteer photographer and horseback rider on refuge roundups at Wichita Mountains. They have two boys, Brent and Zachary. Brent passed away at age 28 after a five-year battle with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Zachary now serves as the Heavy Mobile Equipment Operator and Mechanic at Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge in Oregon.

Bill now enjoys observing nature, hiking, gardening, landscaping their 13 acres for wildlife habitat, attending rendezvous and collecting trade beads used to barter for furs from Native Americans in the 1700s and 1800’s.


Heath Hamilton

Sally Flatland

Heath Hamilton is the Wildlife Refuge Specialist at Patoka River Refuge and has worked for the Service since 2009 in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana. At Patoka, his primary focus is the restoration and management of the forests, wetlands and grasslands both on the refuge and through the private lands program in Southwest Indiana. Hamilton gets especially excited about shorebirds and sparrows! Hamilton is passionate about “re-wilding” his home state and enjoys working with the community, various conservation partners, and in mentoring those interested in natural resource conservation. In addition, Hamilton is a regular member of the Indiana interagency fire crew and especially enjoys working on both prescribed fire and wildfires. Away from work, he loves cross-training, hiking, backpacking, native plant gardening, wildlife watching, and being an active member of his church community with his wife Emily and two children, Leopold and Phoebe.





James Kawlewski

Sally Flatland

James Kawlewski is a Biological Science Technician at Patoka River Refuge. His responsibilities include supervising Youth Conservation Corp students on various restoration and maintenance projects. He obtained his B.S. Degree in Biology with emphasis in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2015. Volunteering at Tamarac Refuge and joining the board of the Friends of Tamarac allowed him to show his true passion for wildlife, which led to a seasonal Park Ranger (Visitor Services Technician) position in 2016. Hoping to retire with the Service, Kawlewski seeks new opportunities to volunteer, building on past experiences to become a well-rounded employee.

Kawlewski’s passion for wildlife drives his ambitious plans: starting a wildlife campaign to advocate for the preservation and restoration of wildlife and a native seed company to create wildlife friendly jobs, in addition to writing wildlife books and producing short videos to promote wildlife. Kawlewski remembers duck hunting with his father as a kid and cherishes the connection with nature that brought him to value conservation.



Courtney Lopez

Sally Flatland

Courtney Lopez is a biological intern for the Patoka River Refuge. This summer she hopes to learn a lot about the wildlife in Indiana and get some hands-on training with conservation techniques. She joined through the Student Conservation Association and Career Discovery Internship Program. Lopez is from Springfield, Ohio, and attends Wittenberg University in Springfield. As an Environmental Science major and Marine Biology minor, she plans on attending graduate school after graduating in 2019. During school, Lopez plays softball for Wittenberg University and grows plants in the greenhouse. In her free time, she likes to go hiking, fishing and spending time with her family.






Rosalie Mosley

Sally Flatland

Rosalie Mosley is the Administrative Technician at Patoka River Refuge for the past 20 years. She grew up on a small Wisconsin dairy farm with 16 other siblings, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for two years and has a B.S. degree in General Business. She is a transplant to Oakland City, Indiana due to a base realignment and closure impacting her Department of Defense position in Kentucky. Mosley has worked for Department of Defense in California, the American Embassy, Amman, Jordan and in North Carolina. In addition to her normal administrative duties at the refuge, she had provided and entered information in Standard Automated Material Management System and RCAR, assists with the annual Real Property Inventory and RAPP report and provides computer/software support to the staff. She has taken the initiative to learn Geographic Information System with some National Conservation Training Center courses and a recent Southeast Region Geographic Information System workshop to create, tweak and update the refuge map/information – a visitor handout – in addition to other refuge visitor handouts. In the summer, you find her working in the garden which contains some pollinator plants and, in the winter, activities include sewing and learning embroidery software. Mosley enjoys day trips with her husband and is an active member of a local daylily club. On her bucket list: promotion; and developing an in-house tracking system of real property maintenance expenditures dataset in Access.


Kirbian Peters

Sally Flatland

Kirbian Peters is from Dallas, Texas, but grew up outdoors, hunting and fishing with his grandparents. Peters currently attends Kansas State University, and is majoring in Biodiversity & Conservation Biology. He previously interned at the Upper Mississippi River Refuge at Lost Mound, working with various conservation projects including tallgrass prairies, and the ornate box turtle. This summer Peters is looking forward to learning a lot more about managing wetlands, and also aquatic ecosystems in general. In his spare time he enjoys sports, hiking, fishing, and hunting.







Last updated: June 8, 2020