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ZooMontana receives $200,000 grant to build waterfowl refuge
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ZooMontana receives $200,000 grant to build waterfowl refuge

Foster Waterfowl Refuge

ZooMontana receives $200,000 Sunderland Foundation Grant in Oct. 2021 to build the Foster Waterfowl Refuge.

ZooMontana has received a $200,000 grant to complete the zoo's new Foster Waterfowl Refuge.

The grant, from the Sunderland Foundation of Overland Park Kansas, nearly completes a year-long, $1.1 million campaign for the refuge.

A unique concept designed by Billings based Land Design, the new habitat is designed to be a native fish refuge and a natural fly-through for migrating waterfowl, creating a much-needed urban escape for wildlife.

The Foster Waterfowl Refuge is the largest project taken on by the zoo since 2008. Kickstarted by a gift from Billings resident Cynthia Foster as a memorial to her late husband Paul Milan Foster, the project quickly garnered support from Ducks Unlimited, Phillips 66, First Interstate Bank, The State of Montana, several foundations, and local residents.

“The excitement behind this project was incredible” said Jeff Ewelt, executive director of ZooMontana, in a press release. “Before we knew it, we were just shy of our goal. A few days later, we received the unbelievable news from the Sunderland Foundation that they were going to help us wrap up the campaign. It’s a great feeling moving into a project with 100% of the funding in place. We’re so thankful to all involved, helping us turn the ugliest area of the zoo into one of the most beautiful.” 

Complete with a raised observation deck, underwater fish viewing, and boardwalks, the Foster Waterfowl Refuge will be a multi-sensory, immersive experience for zoo guests. From the standpoint of habitat quality, management practices, overall mission, and service to wildlife through education and conservation biology programs, the new habitat represents an unusual opportunity to create an ideal wetland.

The educational goal of the refuge is to promote environmental stewardship by providing an appreciation and a hands-on understanding of the local ecosystem and the role of humans in it. 

K2 Construction is planning to begin the project this fall with a completion date planned for mid-2022.

Jeff the Nature Guy shows off the area that is slated to become the Foster Waterfowl Refuge at ZooMontana.

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