The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visited the Community Resource Council on Wednesday to create more awareness of its visitors center at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge.
“We are still in the stage of trying to get the word out to the community,” said Madeline Yancey, a visitors services park ranger. “We are building up our environmental ed. program and our visitors services program. We want people to take advantage of this resource and help us get the word out that it is there.”
The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex Headquarters and Visitors Center, built with $9.8 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money, opened to the public in 2011. The center has allowed the public to have a gathering space to learn about the wildlife that live on or visit the refuge during the year.
Yancey said while there are no official statistics on how many people have used the center since it opened, she sometimes interacts with as many as 140 people on Saturdays at the facility. The refuge is regarded by many as one of the biggest environmental tourist attractions near Los Banos. The facility is popular with birders, duck hunters, people who like viewing tule elk and others.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the only agency that was established specifically for preserving and protecting wildlife,” Yancey said. “Other nations that have unique wildlife in their country are beginning to realize if they keep exploiting the resources for consumptive purposes, eventually those resources are going to run out.”
Yancey said the loss of wildlife equates to a loss of eco-tourisim dollars.
“There are people who travel from all over the world to some of these wonderful places in the world who have unique plant and animals ... and they pay money to do it,” Yancey said.
According to a 2007 report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Economics, each visitor to the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge will spend an average of $62 locally and will generate about $11 in tax revenue.
Yancey said the refuge welcomes people who want to learn about local species, school groups and others.
The San Luis Wildlife Refuge is seven miles off Wolfsen Road. For more information, call (209) 826-3508 or visit www.fws.gov/refuge/