ZooMontana receives $200,000 grant

Funding completes Foster Waterfowl Refuge campaign
Thursday, October 21, 2021

ZooMontana recently received a $200,000 grant from the Sunderland Foundation of Overland Park Kansas, nearly completing a yearlong, $1.1 million campaign for the Zoo’s new Foster Waterfowl 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 lead 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. “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.” added Ewelt.

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. As elsewhere, area youth in south-central Montana appear limited in environmental knowledge, thus the Foster Waterfowl Refuge seeks to improve the human-nature connection by developing outdoor learning opportunities that spark guest’s interests while simultaneously improving their science literacy.

K2 Construction is planning to begin the project this Fall with a hopeful completion date of mid-2022.

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