Wildlife refuge sees big increase in attendance at programs

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 4 May 2024 at 8:10 am

Provided photo: Logan Sauer has helped lead a dramatic increase in attendance and participation in programs at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

BASOM – When Logan Sauer learned there was opening at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, he jumped at the chance to apply.

Sauer, 27, who grew up in Virginia, was working as a Visitors Services Specialist for the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in the Twin Cities and was anxious to return to the northeast.

He started his new position with the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in January 2023, and since then has broken records for attendance and participation in programs.

Sauer’s position is to work with the public and create programs to bring people to the refuge.

“I’m essentially a ‘people person,’” he said.

Sauer has revamped a lot of programming with the refuge open to visitors every Saturday.

“As a result, we’ve seen a high uptake in visitation and public programming,” Sauer said.

In 2022, the year before Sauer arrived at Iroquois, 857 people participated in programs, but the first year Sauer was here, that number jumped to 5,470, or a 538 percent increase. Likewise, visitation rose from 1,619 in 2022 to 2,549 (a 58 percent increase) in 2023.

One of the most popular new events was a Full Moon Luminary Night Hike, in which the Headquarters’ Trail was lined with ice lanterns and hot chocolate was provided afterwards in the Welcome Center.

“Four hundred and thirty people attended that and want to do it again,” Sauer said.

A Warbler Walk at Swallow Hollow on Knowlesville Road today (Saturday), led by photographer and professor at Buffalo State, Ruth Goldman, sold out.

Sauer, who also happens to be an artist, has incorporated art into events at the refuge.

“We started painting classes, free of charge,” he said. “People come here to bird and fish, and now they can paint what they see.”

Next Saturday (May 11) is the Spring Spectacular, the biggest event of the year, Sauer said. His goal is to have 1,000 visitors, and 800 have already signed up.

“We will highlight the interaction of nature, culture and arts,” he said.

Thirty exhibitors are expected, along with raptors, food vendors and special art projects by Friends of Iroquois Wildlife Refuge, funded by GO Art!

May programming will also include a beginner nature photography course from 9 a.m. to noon May 18 at the Visitor’s Center. Pre-registration is required.

On May 25, seed ball and paper making will take place between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Participants can drop in any time and materials will be provided.

More details on programs can be found on the Refuge’s Facebook page (click here). To pre-register for programs, e-mail Sauer at logan_sauer@fws.gov or call and leave a message at (612) 759-8662.

Sauer added he didn’t know much about Western New York when he came here and didn’t think he’d like it.

“But I’m happy to be here and I don’t plan to leave any time soon,” he said.

He said he is always open to new ideas and welcomes suggestions.