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Tamarac Discovery Center partners. Photo by Lee Kensinger/USFWS.

Tamarac Discovery Center partners. Photo by Lee Kensinger/USFWS.

Opening a Path to Discovery:

Tamarac Discovery Center Opens to the Public

It was a big day at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in late June, as refuge staff, Friends of Tamarac, and members from the White Earth Nation celebrated the grand opening of the Tamarac Discovery Center.

Regional Director Tom Melius joined in the celebration that commemorated the completion of the facility located near Rochert, Minnesota on June 26, 2015 and recognized the significant efforts of the Friends of Tamarac in making the environmental education center a reality.

“I’d like to extend my gratitude and appreciation to the Friends of Tamarac for their amazing accomplishment and donation of this wonderful facility to the Fish and Wildlife Service and the American people,” said Melius. “Creating a facility like this, one that is dedicated to learning about the natural world and our mutual appreciation for the outdoors, takes vision and perseverance,” continued Melius.

The opening of this facility is important to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on many levels, as we look for new ways to keep our conservation work relevant to all Americans. The Center helps Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge meet it’s goal of fostering an appreciation for wild places and the wildlife that call Minnesota home. Refuge staff expect that as many as 5,000 youth from surrounding communities will use this facility on an annual basis.

“Our vision for the Tamarac Discovery Center is one that will inspire the next generation to connect with nature and offer pathways to new opportunities that were previously unattainable,” said Refuge Manager Neil Powers.

Partnerships are a key element in any project of this nature. What makes this effort special is that it rallied private individuals and community resources and coupled them with a non-profit organization and a federal government agency.
The federal investment in this building was matched four to one by private donations raised by the Friends of Tamarac. To date, the Friends have raised more than $585,000 for planning, design, and construction.

The facility is built to last and incorporates numerous energy conservation features including geothermal heating and cooling, and high efficiency windows and doors. Water conserving bathroom fixtures and high efficiency lighting also reduce our overall energy footprint.

During the grand opening, Melius also had the honor of presenting the Silver Eagle Award to Friends of Tamarac President Ron Jenson. This award recognizes individuals from outside the Service who have made exceptional contributions to environmental and natural resource issues. The Silver Eagle Award is our most prestigious external award, one that we only present to visionaries after many years of dedication.

Jenson has devoted a decade of his time and energy to the refuge. During this time, he has contributed more than 5,000 hours and served our conservation community as an educator, citizen scientist, maintenance worker and a leader.
Over the past decade, Jenson has become ingrained in the fabric of the refuge as a pillar of support and has become a strong advocate for the National Wildlife Refuge System. As President of the Friends of Tamarac, a role Jenson has served in for six of the past nine years, he has lead with enthusiasm and passion.

Thanks to Jenson and the wider Friends of Tamarac, the Discovery Center will be a place of learning and sharing about our natural world and will foster the next citizen scientists. This facility is symbolic of something greater than bricks and mortar, as mentioned earlier, it is collaboration and partnership at it’s best. It is a physical representation of the special relationship that Tamarac Refuge staff have with their Friends Group.

Learn more about the Tamarac Discovery Center:

By Tina Shaw
Regional Office - External Affairs

Last updated: June 8, 2020