Budget Cuts Bring OU, Sutton Research Center Partnership To An End

Monday, March 7th 2016, 10:46 pm
By: News On 6

Due to state budget cuts, an 18-year-long partnership is coming to an end.

The University of Oklahoma is no longer able to help support the Sutton Avian Research Center in Bartlesville and the executive director said that could mean a cut of up to 80 percent of the center’s budget.

The partnership with OU helps with not only research and wildlife preservation projects but also an education component.

Without the money, a popular show that caters to Oklahoma school children will no longer exist.

Tucked away in the hills of Bartlesville, The Sutton Avian Research Center has been around for more than three decades. For almost two of those, there has been a partnership between OU and Sutton. But, just last week, word came from the university that it's time to part ways.

3/5/2016 Related Story: Bartlesville Center Credited With Saving The Bald Eagle, Faces Extinction

Sutton board chair, Kris Koepsel, said, “It is kind of a kick in the gut, trying to figure out what to do and where to go.”

Koepsel said losing the OU affiliation means losing close to $1 million a year - money spent on salaries, education and research.

It is set to end on June 30th.

“It’s kind of an unwinding of all that, and, really, to be honest, four months isn't a lot of time to try to unwind 18 years of research and things of that nature,” he said.

Monday, Executive Director Jeremy Ross showed us around and pointed out how many school children have benefited from the program over the years - especially the interactive "It’s All About Birds" show.

“We get in front of 15,000 to 20,000 students every year. It is such a memorable program, and this is one that will be cut unless we can find alternative sources,” Ross said.

He said those alternative sources could mean grants, or possibly corporate sponsorships, but the complete closure of the Sutton Research Center is not going to happen.

Ross said, “Now it’s another stage where we have to say ‘Okay, how are we going to take this into the next 30 years of the Sutton Center.’"

Hopes are that Sutton can still collaborate with the university, even if the funds aren't there, on things like library use for research.