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Visitors Invited to Explore Improvements at Funk Waterfowl Production Area

For Immediate Release
(March 1, 2008)

The Rainwater Basin Wetland Management District of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has announced completion of a multiyear project to improve access for visitors at Funk Waterfowl Production Area in eastern Phelps County.

Funk WPA is a 1,995-acre complex of grasslands and wetlands divided by dikes, which permit wetland water levels to be individually controlled. Employees of the Wetland Management District have constructed a six-mile network of walking trails atop the dikes, and added interpretive signs that inform visitors about wetland management practices, native wildlife, and the importance of Rainwater Basin wetlands ã including Funk ã to migrating ducks, geese, and other birds.

Additional improvements include repair and enhancement of an observation blind whose low windows make it accessible to wheelchair users, and an accessible poured concrete path to the blind. Other trails are topped with crushed concrete. Parking lots are now located at various points along the trail network, and include several lots whose entrances were leveled and widened to accommodate school buses for field trips.

Ronnie K. Sanchez, Deputy Project Leader for the Wetland Management District, says the improvements will appeal to birdwatchers who come to south-central Nebraska for the spring migration, but the district also wanted to create an inviting site for local visitors to enjoy wildlife in the spring and year-round. We asked ourselves, "How can some of the local communities better use these areas?&dlquo; Funk, the largest of 60 WPAs the district manages in the region, was an obvious choice to "showcase" Rainwater Basin habitat.

Sanchez notes that the waterfowl migration is at its peak in early March; April and May bring migrating shorebirds, then the songbirds and waders that will nest in the area during summer.

Waterfowl Production Areas, including Funk WPA, are publicly-owned, and are generally open to public use during daylight hours. Unlike most WPA's in the Rainwater Basin region ã which stretches from Dawson and Gosper counties in the west to Butler, Seward, and Saline counties in the east ã Funk WPA is not open to snow goose hunting in the spring. The WPA is 11 _ miles south and one mile east of the I-80 Odessa exit. It is 1 _ miles north of the community of Funk on U.S. Highway 6.