National Wildlife Refuge System


The Huron Prairie Fest sponsored by Friends of Maga Ta-Hophi brings local elected officials and community residents to the Huron Wetland Management District, SD.
Credit: Chris Bailey
A young visitor marvels at a dragonfly curing the Huron Prairie Fest at Huron Wetland Management District.
Credit: USFWS

Friends of Maga Ta-Hophi (Sioux for ‘duck net’) Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) won
the 2013 Friends of the Year Award from the National Wildlife Refuge Association and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. This small, vibrant Friends group has developed a year-round environmental education program, generated community support to expand Huron Wetland Management District, SD, and hosts everything from a Huron Prairie Fest to stargazing and landscape water coloring. Read more…


 “A lot of people are surprised to see all the animal tracks since the wetland seems like such a wasteland,” says Friends president Frank Amundsen, a retired scientist and former Scoutmaster. So the Friends held Winter Wonderland, featuring snowshoeing and animal tracking. The Kite in the Flyway event offered a chance to fly kites and learn about flyways and the migratory birds that depend on South Dakota’s wetlands. The events were much more than outdoor educational activities: they helped grow and solidify community support for Huron WMD. 


The recent acquisition of 160 acres of native grassland required approval by local commissioners. Friends supported the acquisition at public meetings. They also hosted elected officials and local residents at free special events.  The Friends joined staff for programs in schools and provided programs for sixth graders at the WMD.


“It took seven years from the first ‘no’ to a unanimous ‘yes,’” says Huron WMD assistant project leader Sandra Uecker.  “The Friends don’t realize how much of an impact they made in the community for us. Nobody would know we are here without the Friends.”  


Amundsen credits the group’s success to a dedicated group of core members who grew up playing outside, a terrific working relationship with the professional staff, and strong support from the Huron Area Chamber and Visitors Bureau.


More Honors…


Andrew French, winner of the Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award, was cited for innovation and leadership that led to designation of the Connecticut River watershed as the first national blueway. As the manager at Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, CT/MA, VT/NH, Stewart B. McKinney, CT, and John Hay National Wildlife Refuges, NH, French has demonstrated that the three refuges, spread across a 400-mile area of New England, are assets in their communities and the watershed.


Jackie Jacobson received the Employee of the Year Award for her work as visitor services manager at Audubon Refuge, ND. She established the North Dakota Education Team, which has reached more than 80,000 people statewide and has helped conserve prairie and wetland habitats.


Bob Ebeling received the Volunteer of the Year Award after donating more than 10,000 hours at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, UT. Among many other accomplishments, he played a key role in the restoration of the refuge after it was devastated by the flood of the Great Salt Lake in the mid-1980s.

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Last updated: March 4, 2014