Friends of MacKenzie and the WWF Oppose DNR Decision to End Environmental Education for School Children at MacKenzie
Poynette: Today the Friends of MacKenzie and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation sent a letter to DNR Secretary Stepp, requesting DNR halt DNR plans to end school-based Environmental Education at the MacKenzie Environmental Center in Poynette, Wisconsin. The Center has provided Environmental Education to hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin school children since it was opened in the mid-1970s. Since 2006, the Center has been run by the WWF and the Friends under a contract from the DNR. The Center provides environmental education opportunities to 16,000 students a year, the highest number of any of the Environmental Education Centers owned by the DNR and at the lowest per student cost of any of the DNR centers. The net cost for DNR to have the WWF and the Friends operate MacKenzie annually is $185,000 a year out of DNR’s annual budget of five hundred million dollars. The Center is being operated under a no-cost increase ten year contract. The DNR is proposing to use MacKenzie as a training center for hunting, fishing and trapping skills for youth and novice hunters, anglers and trappers. The Friends and the WWF support the use of MacKenzie for these purposes but have indicated that the school-based environmental education programs being offered at MacKenzie take place when the facility would not be used for hunting, fishing and trapping based skills training. MacKenzie could be optimized for educational purposes by having both environmental education and skills based training taking place at the facility. Besides this major change in use, DNR has informed the Friends and WWF that there will be major changes in buildings and structures at MacKenzie including the construction of a shooting range. Under DNR regulations and policies, such dramatic changes necessitate the development of a Master Plan for the property including significant public involvement including public hearings in the community. DNR has not done a Master Plan for MacKenzie and has had no public input for the proposed changes. The Friends and the WWF have called on DNR to at least continue school-based Environmental Education at MacKenzie until the results of the Master Plan are completed.