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Visitor center opens at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge

The Modesto Bee (Modesto, CA) November 25, 2011
Bee Staff Reports

Wetlands offers education opportunities

The new visitor center at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge complex features nearly 20 years of research by scientists that include members of the biology department at California State University, Stanislaus in Turlock.

Work by CSU, Stanislaus, faculty and the San Joaquin Valley Endangered Species Recovery Program is part of interactive displays in the 1,500-square-foot exhibit hall. The center was funded in 2009 with $7.2 million in federal stimulus money.

The displays feature plants and animals that include the riparian brush rabbit, riparian wood rat, San Joaquin kit fox, Fresno kangaroo rat, blunt-nosed leopard lizard and horned lizard. All are rare, threatened or endangered.

"The visitor center adds a whole new dimension to the education of students and the public about valley ecosystems and the preservation of our natural heritage," CSU, Stanislaus, biology Professor Patrick Kelly said in a news release. "In collaborative ventures like our ongoing partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, everyone benefits—the public, students, and of course the species themselves."

In addition to visitors, the center allowed refuge staff to move from rental offices in a Los Banos strip mall. That will save rent of about $200,000 per year, officials said in 2009.

The 26,350-acre San Luis refuge is among a collection of preserved wetlands in western Merced County totaling more than 130,000 acres. The wetlands are what's what left of what used to be 4 million acres in the Central Valley. The complex is within the Pacific Flyway, a major route for migrating birds, including waterfowl.

Students as well as researchers will be able to use the center for field trips and research.

"People are often surprised to learn about the immense size of the refuge, and the learning opportunities it provides," CSU, Stanislaus, biology Professor Stuart Wooley said in the release. "Hundreds of undergraduate students will visit the refuges during the academic year, and half a dozen graduate students have completed all of their field work there."

On the Net: www.fws.gov/sanluis.

The visitor center is at 7376 S. Wolfsen Road in Los Banos.


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