A record 2,380 students, chaperones and teachers enjoyed a touch of the wild at the Midwest Outdoor Heritage Education Expo (MOHEE) at the DNR’s MacKenzie Center, Poynette, Wisconsin, May 20-21.

The 1,967 mostly fourth-through-sixth graders tried their hand at outdoor skills with help from volunteer mentors and DNR educators and staff.  Last year’s inaugural event had 1,435 students. Some of the 413 chaperones and teachers accompanying them also participated at various activity stations.

More than 30 conservation groups as diverse as Madison Audubon, Safari Club International, Friends of NRA and Dane County Conservation League teamed up with the Outdoor Heritage Education Center (OHEC) charitable non-profit group, according the OHEC and MOHEE Founder Mark LaBarbera.  He said the goal of the youth event is to introduce youth, families and educators to a variety of outdoor activities, conservation and safety training programs so they can choose which ones to explore further throughout the year.  Teachers are given information about where students and their families can go to find more information about ongoing programs.

Admission is free thanks to generous support from the groups, including large donations from the Southeast Wisconsin Bow Hunters Chapter of Safari Club International, SCI Wisconsin and SCI Badgerland Chapters plus Friends of NRA and Dane County Conservation League.  Next tier donors include Wisconsin Conservation Congress, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Wings Over Wisconsin

“Where else can students be face-to-face with live wolves, lynx, bison, badgers, otters and eagles, and participate in archery, airgun, fisheries, forestry, parks and so many other fun activities, all in one location?” said Mike Pjevach, President of SCI’s bow chapter.

One of the benefits of the MOHE Expo being launched at the DNR’s MacKenzie Center is that it showcases the property to additional groups of hunters, anglers and others who can help support it year-round as it works to connect youth with nature, including increasing outdoor skills training and learn to hunt programs on the property.

JD Smith, DNR MacKenzie Center Director said, “We are excited to have the opportunity to host the Midwest Outdoor Heritage Education Expo at the MacKenzie Center.  The DNR is a supporting partner at many other expos and we are happy to continue that support by providing an ideal location for schools to bring students for this outdoor experience.”

Rob Bohmann, Chair of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, said, “Friends of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress will donate funds and offer transportation grants again next year for schools planning to attend the Midwest Outdoor Heritage Education Expo, May 18-19, 2016.”

Additional funding is coming from individuals and groups across the state that want their local schools and students to connect with natural resources and healthy outdoors activities.

The Wisconsin Trappers Association, Ducks Unlimited, Friends of Poynette Game Farm and Friends of MacKenzie, Dodge County Sporting Alliance, Pheasants Forever, North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association and Whitetails Unlimited are some of the groups that have added their support.

Neil Bishop, President of the Friends of MacKenzie volunteer group, said, “We’re glad to support this event and to showcase the MacKenzie Center, just 25 miles north of Madison, and one of the most diverse education centers in Wisconsin. With interpretive trails, wolves, bison and other live wildlife, plus museums and education programs for school and youth groups, MacKenzie is a wonderful place to visit and learn about the natural world.”

The State Game Farm is connected to the MacKenzie Center and is adjacent to the arboretum on the western half of the property.  The facility raises 75,000 pheasants that the DNR releases on more than 90 properties open to the public in Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin conservation is rooted at this place,” said Vic Connors, President of the Friends of Poynette Game Farm, “and we see this education expo as a valuable way to share this history and build upon our outdoor heritage.”

The DNR MacKenzie Center is located on a 500-acre property near Poynette in Columbia County, 25 miles north of Madison at W7303 County Highway CS. It offers:

  • Interpretive trails that wind through forest and prairie habitats.
  • Conservation and logging museums and exhibits.
  • A wildlife habitat area where visitors see up-close cougar, eagle, bobcat, deer, bison, wolves and other animals native to Wisconsin.
  • An arboretum that includes more than 100 species of trees.
  • A nature study pond.
  • An observation tower to view the property and surrounding countryside.
  • A large picnic area with a shelter and restrooms.
  • A lodge and dormitories for overnight field trips.

Volunteers, donors and educators can reach LaBarbera at 608-854-2196 or mobile 520-730-9252, or malabarb@peoplepc.com for more information

Image courtesy Outdoor Heritage Education Center

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