New HQ and visitors' center announced for San Luis National Wildlife Refuge

Rep. Dennis Cardoza announced today the start of construction on a new administrative headquarters and visitor center for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Merced County. The project is being funded with $7.2 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In addition to the Tule Elk herd, about 30 migratory bird species use the refuge habitat. It is located within the Pacific Flyway, a major route for migrating birds, including waterfowl, the congressman's office said in a news release.

School groups, scout organizations and nature enthusiasts are frequent visitors. Once completed, the new facility will be around 16,000 square feet and located on the southwest end of the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge.

Work crews began clearing vegetation and preparing the project site this week. It is among the largest Fish and Wildlife Service projects being funded by the Recovery Act. In addition to providing employment, it will help provide a much needed center for youth groups, classes and other visitors, according to the news release.

Los Banos city officials have expressed support, saying an expected increase in visitors from the new center will also benefit the local economy.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Division of Economics, each visitor to the refuge from outside the region will spend an average of $62 locally and generate about $11 in tax revenue.