The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is exploring the creation of an outdoor skills recruitment and retention center to focus on training long-term mentors to help reverse the nationwide trend of declining hunters, anglers and trappers.

The DNR would put this first-of-its-kind facility at the MacKenzie Environmental Education Center near Poynette in Columbia County.

The state-owned center, which has provided environmental education for years, already hosts many learn-to-hunt events.

The center is run by the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation in partnership with the DNR and a friends group. The agreement with the federation will end this summer. All classes with scheduled MacKenzie visits for the spring and summer will continue.

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said the federation has done an exceptional job of offering outdoor education for schools and the public for the last several years. However, costs are going up. The DNR is looking to reduce those costs while refocusing part of its educational offerings to outdoor skills, recruitment and retention.

Stepp says the DNR will reissue the current contract a new focus — and an open process to solicit bids from groups, individuals and organizations. Look for the DNR’s Request for Proposals (RFP) this spring. She’d like to have an agreement signed with the successful bidder by the fall.

Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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