The DeForest Area Rotary and Rotary District #6250 have pledged a $10,000 grant to the Friends of MacKenzie Environmental Center. The Friends group supports the environmental education efforts of the MacKenzie Environmental Education Center, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources facility located near Poynette.

The funds are pledged for the design and creation of interpretive signage along the center’s Wildlife Trail. In addition, members of the DeForest Area Rotary will assist DNR staff and Friends volunteers to remove old signs and replace them with the newly created ones.

Katie Lea, a President of the DeForest Area Rotary, expressed the following, “The DeForest Area Rotary Club is committed to projects and organizations locally, nationally, and internationally that serve to enhance the quality of life for the benefit of all concerned. In concert with the objectives of Rotary International and a matching grant from Rotary District #6250, our Club will contribute $10,000.00 and volunteer labor to the Friends of MacKenzie Environmental Center, Inc. for the purpose of providing and installing interpretive signage for Phase I of the Wildlife Project.”

The Wildlife Trail contains many species of mammals, birds, and reptiles that are native to Wisconsin. At present, visitors can view bison, wolves, foxes, a white-tailed deer, a lynx, a bald eagle, various hawks and owls, a cottontail rabbit, and one wood turtle. Some of the animal enclosures along the Wildlife Trail are 30 — 40 years old and need to be updated to provide a less stressful environment for the animals and an enhanced viewing experience for visitors.

The Friends of MacKenzie has developed a Wildlife Project to address these needs. Phase I of that project provides new enclosures for wolves and coyotes and creates a handicap accessible trail with newly created signage. The new signs explain the life histories of each species and provide the public with information on basic ecological principles. The Rotary grant will be used to design, develop, and distribute these signs along the Wildlife Trail.

Each year, the MacKenzie Center is visited by 35,000 to 40,000 individuals. Included within this group are over 10,000 students. These students come from 22 counties and 250 schools located throughout Wisconsin and northern Illinois. From 2016 to 2018, 938 students and adults from the DeForest Area community attended various events while learning about the flora and fauna of our state and developing outdoor skills related to natural resource conservation.

Ruth Ann Lee, president of the Friends of MacKenzie, described her thanks with this comment, “The support of the DeForest Area Rotary and Rotary District #6250 exemplifies the spirit and commitment to regional projects that help sustain the programs offered by the MacKenzie Center. The partnerships they encourage are fundamental to the continuation of environmental education in our state. We appreciate both the monetary donation and the donation of time provided by the Rotary volunteers.” Tony Schwarz, a member of the Board of Directors of the Friends of MacKenzie said, “The DeForest Area Rotary donation is a great example of how a community’s educational boundaries extend well beyond the limits of a village or county.”

Once the Wildlife Project is completed, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will manage the new enclosures and trail with support from the Friends of MacKenzie. Samantha Kueffler, DNR property manager at the site appreciates the support of the DeForest Area Rotary Club and the Friends of MacKenzie Environmental Center.

“On behalf of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, I want to thank you for your donation to the Friends of MacKenzie Environmental Education Center’s Wildlife Project — Interpretive Signage,” she said. “Your generous gift will assist the Department and the Friends in providing an enhanced educational experience at the MacKenzie Center for property patrons. The Department is very fortunate to have generous donors who are committed to supporting Wisconsin State properties. Your Club’s considerate donation will further preserve Wisconsin recreational heritage for future generations.”

Rotary International is a service organization whose stated purpose is to “bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance goodwill and peace around the world.” Additional information can be viewed at www.rotary.org. Information on the DeForest Area Rotary Club can be found at DeForest Rotary.

Additional information describing the MacKenzie Center for Environmental Education can be viewed at https://dnr.wi.gov/education/Mackenzie/. Information describing the Friends of MacKenzie and the Wildlife Project is found at friendsofmackenzie.org.

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