Raptor rescuer envisions nature center near Stevens Point
By Rick LaFrombois
for the Stevens Point Journal
Monday, April 26, 2004
ANTIGO - The executive director of a wildlife rehabilitation center near Antigo says she wants to build an expanded nature education and rehabilitation center between Wausau and Stevens Point that offers better access to residents and students.
The director, Marge Gibson, says Raptor Education Group International has outgrown its current facilities and cannot meet the public's demand for tours and other educational opportunities. The raptor group is a nonprofit center with two paid employees and many volunteers, including Gibson. Staff at the center rehabilitate hundreds of birds each year, including eagles, hawks and trumpeter swans.
"Even though we live in this incredible wildlife area, the citizens don't have ready access to the knowledge about it, and I'd certainly like to change that if I can," Gibson said.
But she'll need help - lots of it.
Because of federal and state budget cuts, Gibson said the center now struggles without government funding even though it rehabilitates many federally protected species. And calls for help to the center in the past few years have tripled because the state Department of Natural Resources no longer rescues or transports birds, she said.
Ideally, Gibson is looking for someone to donate a long-term lease of land - at least 40 acres with prairie grasses, wildflowers and woodland. And with donations, she would like to build a nature center similar to the one in Baraboo that houses the International Crane Foundation - see savingcranes.org and click "about ICF." She envisions families stopping by for a picnic and a stroll through an interactive nature center with outdoor walking paths.
The Antigo facility is not designed for public tours.