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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bear River Refuge Needs Volunteers For Birding Tours

A major road improvement project this summer will restrict access to the main part of Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. To continue allowing public access, the refuge is seeking volunteers to guide tours into an alternate area. The refuge provided the information below. Stop at the Wildlife Education Center (one block west of I-15 at the Forest Street exit (#363) in Brigham City) for more details.

Refuge Road Project
The federal roads project to raise (in certain places), widen and pave the refuge road is set to begin this spring. Although some work may begin as early as April, the road will be COMPLETELY CLOSED to the public for approximately 3 months - June 1 through August 31. There will be NO access to the refuge or auto tour route AT ALL during this time - at least via the main road (please read on...).

The project will begin out at the main part of the refuge, in the area of our security gate (Duckville - where the old tundra swan sign is) and work toward town. Phase I construction (2007) will have the road mostly completed from the refuge to approximately the Canada Goose Club by fall. Phase II (2008) will complete the road from the Goose Club to Interstate 15. In addition, they will work on a piece in front of the wildlife education center this summer - widening, putting in turn lanes, etc. Besides raising and widening the road, there are several large culverts that will be installed in certain places, where there has historically been water over the road during high water times. The decision to allow complete closure of the road was made because it will significantly shorten the amount of time the road is under construction.

Refuge Guided Tours
Because our refuge staff feels it's important to allow visitors to see SOME part of the refuge, I'm launching our volunteer "Refuge Tour Guide
Program." We will train volunteers to take visitors on guided car caravan tours of the refuge, beginning in April and continuing through fall. Although the program will continue on into future years, we're really in a "crunch" this summer because of the road closure. We're asking for YOUR help!

We need folks with good bird identification AND people skills, who are willing to be trained to lead tours for the refuge. We will begin the training sessions in early March. Sessions will be one day long (6-8 hours), partly classroom, partly out on the refuge. Guided refuge tours will begin in April. During the time the road is completely closed (June through August), trained guides will take visitors on tours "behind the gates." This is a MAJOR perk for those willing to help us, as you'll get to bird in an area of the refuge not normally open to the public! And it's a REALLY COOL part of the refuge...lots of birds out there!

Training will be provided on:
1) Brief history of the National Wildlife Refuge System
2) History of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge / wildlife education
center tour
3) Management of the Bird Refuge / a little on history and uniqueness of the area
4) Bird hot spots on the refuge
5) Customer service skills
6) Managing a tour group

Guides should be able to identify MOST of the birds they see on tours. We don't expect folks to know every single one. Guides may work in teams of two as well. Tours will last approximately two hours total. A "kit" will be available for guides to take along on tours. Kits will contain a "leader manual" with lots of good resource information in it, bird checklists, field guides, a spotting scope, a few sets of binoculars, etc.

We'll send along whatever folks think they need.

We'll ask that trained tour guides commit to a schedule for leading tours - at least twice per month during the three months the road is closed. More, if they're able and willing. We'll set up the schedule according to how many volunteers will lead tours and what days they're available. Saturdays will be our number one priority. Other days of the week, priority order, to be determined. We'll offer tours as many days of the week as can.

We're going to need a SET SCHEDULE, so the information can be advertised to the public. Example: Every Saturday at 10 am and 1 pm, Fridays 10 am and Tuesdays 7 pm ... or whatever. The tour days and times will remain constant during the road closure.

If guides are willing to lead tours before and after the June-July-August closure, that will be wonderful, as we plan to continue guided tours after the road project is done, and "seasonally" on into the future. However, this is strictly voluntary. Right now, my main concern is June-July-August.

Anyone interested should contact me. If I don't know someone personally, I'd appreciate a reference as to their birding and people skills.

THANK YOU for considering this request! I hope we can get a good group of birder volunteers, so that we can offer lots of refuge tours during our "peak" tourist season!

And if you think it will make a difference, tell folks I'm a pretty darn good cookie baker...

Betsy Beneke
Outdoor Recreation Planner
Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge


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