A youngster uses a magnifying glass for a closer look at organisms present in the sample of slough water at the Explore A Wetland booth at the Prairie Fest event held Sept. 22 at the Maga Ta-Hohpi Waterfowl Production Area. FILE PHOTO
HURON — The Friends of Maga Ta-Hohpi Waterfowl Production Area have received the prestigious Refuge System Friends Group of the Year Award by the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
“Refuge Systems Friends Groups provide unheralded support of our nation’s national wildlife refuges and wetland management districts,” said David Houghton, NWRA president. “These groups of volunteers work relentlessly to help make the Refuge System our country’s crown jewels of conservation.”
The Waterfowl Production Area has approximately 2,200 acres of land and is located on 392nd Avenue (eight miles west of Huron on Hwy 14). Maga Ta-Hohpi is a Yankton Sioux term meaning duck nest.
“We are all still in shock,” said Frank Amundson, president of the Friends of Maga Ta-Hohpi WPA. “We weren’t working toward anything like this. We always thought that our events are fantastic, but we are happy that the National Wildlife Refuge Association and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation have decided to present us with this award.”
Amundson said that in recent years, the group has won awards from state groups, from the Rocky Mountain Region, and from the National Wildlife Federation.
Friends of Maga Ta-Hohpi is a cooperating association with the Huron Wetland Management District of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. It is a private, non-profit corporation organized to promote, develop and support environmental education and awareness of the values of preserving and enhancing our natural resources.
“We were very surprised to win and be nominated,” said Amundson. “It really makes us feel good about our work.”
Amundson said he first got involved with the group in 2000. “At that time, we really weren’t doing much of anything as far as events. I remember our very first event; it was a Dutch Oven seminar.”
Now, Amundson says they hold a variety of events year-round, including Creatures of the Night, Flying Kites in the Byway, Nature Fun Day, Prairie Fest, Dutch Oven Gathering, Stargazing and Winter Fest.
“Our group’s whole idea is to reconnect with nature and explore all of the benefits nature has to offer. People now are spending so much time indoors looking at screens: TV screens, computer screens, cellphones — we want to focus on getting people outdoors as much as possible.”
Amundson says they have been getting bigger crowds at their events and more people are becoming interested.
“Our events are free, and that’s the way we like them,” he said. “This is a family-friendly setting, and it’s not something you have to pay for.”
Friends of Maga Ta-Hohpi accomplishments the NWRA cited in its press release included working to build partnerships with the local community, creating name recognition and a positive opinion of the Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) they support, providing a diverse array of free of charge year-round outdoor activities and taking special consideration of the needs and interests of the community.
Amundson says the reason they are able to afford the events is through grants. “We apply for many grants through the year, as many as we can. We have memberships and also there are people that donate to us as well. Our goal is to keep all of our events free, now and in the future.”
The Friends of Maga Ta-Hohpi will be recognized for their selection as Friends of the Year during the 78th Annual North American Wildlife and National Resources Conference in Arlington, Virginia on March 28.
“When new people come out to see it, they are surprised,” he said. “They are amazed to learn what takes place in the wetlands. They see animal tracks, waterfowl and birds, and they realize it’s a whole world in itself.”For the complete article see the 02-15-2013 issue.
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