Grant received to restore wildlife refuge unit

Staff Writer

Friends of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge has been awarded a $43,840 grant to complete restoration work on the Fox Unit, a 40-acre property located across State Rt. 2 from the refuge visitor center.
The property was purchased in April from the Charles Jr. and Barbara Ann Fox Family by the Friends group, a nonprofit organization.
The group’s mission is to restore wetlands, conserve habitat for fish, wildlife, and migratory birds, and connect people with nature at Ohio’s only national wildlife refuge complex.
Bethany Kalina, South Lyon, Mich., is the daughter of Charles Jr. and Barbara Fox.
She said she is happy to see the farm restored to native habitat.
“Our family was so excited to sell our father's farm to the Friends of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. We were always hoping to preserve the farm in some way and this presented the perfect opportunity! The opportunity to leave a legacy, contribute to the refuge, to protect wildlife and to restore the farm back to its natural state,” said Kalina.
Since 2013, the Friends group has managed a growing fund for land acquisition with the intention of working with refuge staff to identify and purchase land significant to the refuge from willing sellers.
After six years of planning and securing two sizable gifts from anonymous donors, Friends of Ottawa NWR turned this vision into reality.
"The friends group is elated to have this opportunity to work with a local family to support the refuge in its conservation success story,” said Aimee Arent, executive director. "We are so grateful to the Fox family for wanting their land to become habitat for birds and wildlife. We are honored to be a part of it all.”
The Fox Unit includes an 8-acre woodlot and 32 acres of agricultural land.
“The Fox Unit woods is already quite striking with a variety of woodland plant species, including jack-in-the-pulpit and mayapple,” she said. “Restoration plans will include restoring wet prairie and shrub habitat which should provide excellent habitat for a variety of species.”
Restoration work will be financed in part by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency under provisions of the U.S. EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Fox Unit is a priority project for wildlife habitat restoration because of its location in what is designated by the EOA as the Maumee Area of Concern. Restoration work is expected to be completed by December 2021.
The property will be sold to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service once government funding is secured, and the proceeds from the sale will be used for future land purchases in a revolving fund managed by the friends.
“Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is excited that the Friends of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge achieved another conservation milestone with the acquisition and grant award,” said Jason Lewis, Refuge Manager. “The organization has become a regional conservation leader championing migratory bird habitat protection and restoration. Their efforts will help promote the health of Lake Erie through water quality improvements and benefit fish and wildlife throughout the Western Basin of Lake Erie.”
During a recent site visit with the friends group and the Fox family, the group was standing near the site of the razed farmhouse overlooking the field. As they watched, over the woods an eagle appeared. Then two. Then four. The family stood there in awe, excited to see that the property is already becoming a hotspot for wildlife.
The friends will be looking for future support to help the refuge open the Fox Unit and create public access, including a parking lot and hiking trail. For more information about the unit or land conservation at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, call 419 898-0014, ext. 13 or visit


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