Crane refuge nearing completion of $3M office, visitor’s center

Published 5:32 pm Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A new $3 million office and visitor’s center at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge is expected to open this spring.

In addition to the other features, the complex is adding a bookstore.

Loyd Culp, manager of the Gulf Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex, said it will be the first time a functional bookstore will be available at the refuge. Culp said the bookstore will provide environmental educational material as well as mementos as people visit the complex.

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The bookstore is a collaboration between the refuge and the nonprofit organization, the Southeast Wildlife Conservation Group.

The 20,000-acre refuge is home to 120-to-140 sandhill cranes. The birds were one of the first species to be listed as endangered after the Endangered species Act was created in 1973.

Most of the refuge, including the office, remains closed to the public as recovery from Hurricane Katrina continues. The office, however, should open within a couple of months.

“The big advantage with the new facility is we will have modern, updated exhibits, using the latest technology as far as the type of media that we can use on the new exhibits. The new visitor’s center will overlook one of the pine savannas that we actually manage with fire to support the endangered Mississippi sandhill crane. So, this is a huge step up for us,” Culp said.

The Gulf Coast National Wildlife Complex includes three refuges in Mississippi and Alabama.

The Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR, headquartered in Gautier, was established to restore and protect habitat for the endangered sandhill cranes.