Remarkable Progress of Wildlife Refuge Land Fund
The following message from Executive Director Dan R. Kunkle was published in the Fall 2003 issue of Wildlife Activist.
In January 1990, the Board of Directors of the Wildlife Center established the Wildlife Refuge Land Fund. The goal was to raise money to purchase land, preferably in the Kittatinny Raptor Corridor near Bake Oven Knob. The Board envisioned a farm of 50 to 100 acres as the ideal property for the refuge, which would also serve as an education center and community resource, and house the Center’s offices and library.
On two occasions, Center leaders found appropriate farms in northern Lehigh County, but on both occasions, a deal never came to fruition. At the same time, we continued raising funds for the future refuge. Raising funds for a future refuge proved quite difficult. Many potential funders told us to find a piece of land first, then come to them for help. Yet the landowners wanted a deal quickly and were not willing to wait for us to raise the needed funds.
In April of 1998, the Land Fund total stood at $47,500, a far cry from the $250,000 or more we thought we would need. Because the Board identified the acquisition of a refuge as our number one priority in our strategic plan, we redoubled our efforts to raise more money for the refuge. Mainly because of many small donations by members and a few foundation grants, by October 2001, we had increased the total to over $82,000, but were still being told by most foundations to come back when we had a property in mind.
In January 2002, Grant White came to me with his vision for the Lehigh Gap Wildlife Refuge and Restoration Project. The Board quickly evaluated and adopted the project and we had our potential land. Fund raising began in earnest and the land fund took off. It began with each Board member being asked to make a pledge over a two-year period. That was followed by a Capital Campaign with our members. Our Board and members combined to donate and pledge over $34,000 to the effort. By the time we signed the agreements of sale, we had $109,000 in the bank – a nice down payment but a long way from the $900,000 price tag for the properties and acquisition costs. The generosity and commitment of our members, and the incredible worthiness of our project unlocked the floodgates, and we began securing larger donations from a variety of sources.
To date we have raised over $750,000 of the $900,000 needed for the acquisition phase of the project. (A $50,000 grant from the McLean Contributionship arrived just before press time.) While we are confident that the remaining funding will be secured, we continue to have other expenses and have a need for a great deal more funding for creating educational and visitor facilitates on the refuge. Our initial goal of raising $2 million is beginning to look realistic. As we pursued this dream with only $100,000, we sometimes wondered if we were out of our minds. We are now completely confident that with patience and continued hard work, we will succeed.
If you have pledged and contributed to the Fund, we thank you. If you have not, it is a good time to do it. As any homeowner knows, there are always expenses that need to be paid. We need funds for capital improvements and other activities beyond acquisition. Congratulations to you, the members of the Wildlife Center, for making this dream possible. Keep up the good work, and make sure to read Bob Hoopes article about the refuge and come out for a visit.