Wildlife refuge to celebrate 25 years

From Local Sources

OAKLAND CITY — The Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area will celebrate its 25th birthday at the annual Refuge Appreciation Day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. CT Saturday, Oct. 5, at Wirth Park in Oakland City.

The first tract was dedicated to the refuge on Sept. 7, 1994, and was the beginning of the protection and restoration of the most significant bottomland hardwood wetland habitat complex remaining in Indiana. With a final acquisition
goal of over 22,000 acres, the refuge would stretch for 20 miles along the lower Patoka River.

Bill McCoy was sent by the Fish and Wildlife Service to Oakland City in 1990 to oversee the process of creating a National Wildlife Refuge. He became the first refuge manger of the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area and remained in that position for 28 years. He retired from the USFWS after 48 years of service in 2018.

Sept. 3, 2019, brought a new refuge manager and he is not a stranger to Gibson County. Rick Speer grew up on his family farm in Owensville that dates back to 1836. He returned to Gibson County and his family farm to manage the Patoka River NWR & MA.

In his 29 year career with the FWS, Rick has been at seven different refuges, making Patoka River his eighth.

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