Lisa Jansen-Rees has shared several photos of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and her post this month was the winner for February. Lisa wrote in her post “the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge matters because its unspoiled beauty gives us a glimpse of our history. And while many artists try to capture that beauty on canvas, nothing beats experiencing the sites, scents, sounds, and feel of walking through God’s country”. Mike and Cathy Ward’s stunning sunset photo at Caddo Lake was included with the post.
Also in January, Lisa shared another reason the Refuge matters. Health studies indicate spending time in nature increases feelings of calmness, increases endorphin levels and dopamine production, restores capacity for concentration and attention, reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels, reduces irritability and decreases feelings of isolation. The WMWR includes 8,570 acres of designated Wilderness area where people regularly go to “lose their minds and find their souls.”
Wichita Mountains is one of the oldest, most prestigious national wildlife refuges in America. Set aside in 1901, Wichita Mountains was originally established as a forest reserve. President Theodore Roosevelt redesignated the area in 1905 as the Wichita Forest and Game Preserve created “for the protection of game animals and birds and shall be recognized as a breeding place thereof.” Encompassing 59,020 acres (about 90 square miles), the refuge manages 22,400 acres for public use and 8,570 acres of Wilderness.
The Refuge is located about 20 minutes northwest of Lawton, Oklahoma and attracts between 1.52 and 1.72 million visitors each year. The Refuge hosts a rare piece of the past – a remnant mixed grass prairie, an island where the natural grasslands escaped destruction because the rocks underfoot defeated the plow. Worn by time and nature, the Wichita Mountains loom large above the prairie in southwest Oklahoma—a lasting refuge for wildlife. Best known for its roaming herds of bison, longhorn, and Rocky Mountain elk, Wichita Mountains also offers quality opportunities for wildlife dependent recreation including fishing, bird watching, wildlife photography, hiking, camping, and kayaking.
The Friends of the Wichitas was loosely formed in the late 1980’s, near the time the USFWS started it’s Friends Initiative, by a group of faithful Refuge volunteers with a vision for the future. Since that time the FOW has filed its 501c3 certificate with the state of Oklahoma, updated its charter and policies with the help of CORFA and the NWRA, opened a very popular Nature Store within the Visitors Center, funded historic restoration, led extremely popular public tours on behalf of Refuge management, and regularly boasted approximately 300 members strong.
Congratulation Lisa and the Friends of the Wichitas!