The goal of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to protect and conserve America's wildlife.
Myles Schultz and John Hall are on the Friends of Deep Fork board.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife office for the Deep Fork refuge is 10 miles away in downtown Okmulgee's federal building.
Myles Schultz said he doesn't support all stimulus projects, but believes this one will stimulate the economy.
By Jennifer Loren, Oklahoma Impact Team
OKMULGEE -- The U-S Fish and Wildlife Service received $280 million from President Obama's stimulus package. Just more than $1 million of that is coming to Oklahoma.
The goal of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to conserve American wildlife. Most of the money coming to Oklahoma is going to a project that's intended to stimulate greater appreciation of Oklahoma's natural beauty.
Myles Schultz and John Hall are regular visitors of the Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge near Okmulgee.
"Sometimes you get busy with everything that's going on in your life, going all the time, but to be able to get out in the outdoors and get that quiet time, to be able to see stuff in nature is just, is just unreal," Hall said.
For Schultz and Hall, observing the habitat at the refuge has become more than a hobby, it's a passion. Both men are board members of a group called, "Friends of Deep Fork." Their goal is to raise awareness of the refuge.
"Nobody knows we're here," Schultz said.
One reason they said they believe Deep Fork is rarely heard of is there's no building or staff on site to make visitors' experiences more enjoyable.
Lori Jones is a biologist and manager of the refuge, but her office is 10 miles from the refuge on the third floor of the federal building in downtown Okmulgee. Jones and the refuge staff have to go through security every time they go to work. And, just like Jones, when the public wants to visit the wildlife department they have to pass through security too. They have to lock their cell phones in a lock box, take the key, go through security which means bags and shoes go through the x-ray screener. According to Jones, most visitors complain that it's a hassle to get there, especially when all they need is information about the refuge, but, Jones said they rarely have visitors.
"Nobody can find us," Jones said.
That will soon change because of the nearly $1 million in stimulus money budgeted to build an on-site administration building.
"They'll actually be able to get us on the refuge, ask questions while they're at the refuge," Jones said.
"I think it'll be huge to have staff here all the time," Schultz said.
Schultz said he doesn't believe in every stimulus project but believes this is stimulus money well spent.
"The more people we get coming to the Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge, the more people will be eating at the restaurants, staying at the hotels," Schultz said.
The Deep Fork project is the most expensive Fish and Wildlife project funded by stimulus in Oklahoma. There are 14 other projects totaling about $300,000.
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