The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is the first and only international refuge in North America.
Earlier this month Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI), the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announced that on May 9, 2020, there will be an event to mark the Grand Opening of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway and visitor center.
The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is the first and only international refuge in North America and stretches along the shoreline of the Detroit River and western Lake Erie. The refuge focuses on conserving, protecting, and restoring habitats for 30 species of waterfowl, 117 kinds of fish, and over 300 species of birds, while providing quality opportunities for people to connect with nature.
It is home to a variety of ecologically important bird species, including bald eagles, osprey, peregrine falcons; fish species including whitefish, sturgeon, salmon, perch, and walleye.
“This refuge and conservation mattered so much to John. It was his vision for a place to gather, learn and protect the wildlife and natural resources that make our region unique,” said Dingell. “After decades, and the incredibly hard work of many, I look forward to celebrating the Grand Opening of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway and visitor center in May. Being at the refuge truly reinforces one’s appreciation of the outdoors, and I hope everyone can join us for the occasion.”
“This visitor center will provide a place for all to develop a love of the great outdoors through education and exploration,” said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.
“We are proud to announce that we will be opening the new John D Dingell Jr. Visitor Center to the public on May 9, 2020,” said U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Regional Director Charlie Wooley. “We appreciate our partner’s and the community’s patience as we near completion of this beautiful, new facility.
“This will be a wonderful gathering place and beginning of a new chapter for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge in the Downriver community and we hope everyone will come out and help us celebrate this spring.”
In the early 2000s, then-Representative John Dingell joined then-Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Herb Grey to form a group of local, regional, state, and federal agencies to establish a wildlife refuge along the lower Detroit River ecosystem.
Dingell grew up hunting and enjoying the outdoors in these same areas and made it his mission to establish the refuge. The process formally began in 2001 when President Bush signed legislation written by Dingell to create the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. Since that time, the refuge has grown from a couple of small tracts of land into a 6,200-acre refuge that spans 48 miles of the lower Detroit River and western Lake Erie.
The Refuge Gateway embodies the vision of the refuge. Co-managed by Wayne County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it includes restored native habitat on the site of a former factory, a 700-foot fishing pier into the Detroit River, and a state-of-the-art LEED-certified visitor center and offices.
The Refuge Gateway will provide public access to the river in Trenton and is the gateway into the hiking trails of the refuge’s Humbug Marsh, the last undeveloped mile along the U.S. side of the river.
In 2017, the visitor center was named after John Dingell as a tribute to his decades of service in establishing and expanding the refuge.
In early October Congresswoman Dingell (D-MI) and Margaret Everson, Acting Director of US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), toured the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.
“Seeing the area and work being done matter to me, the community, and the whole region,” said Dingell. “After decades, and the incredibly hard work of many, I look forward to celebrating the Grand Opening of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway and visitor center in May.”