International Wolf Center Seeks Financial Help From State
Minnesota Senate Stops in Ely On First Leg of Bonding Tour
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Attendance at the International Wolf Center in Ely has seen a steady decrease of about three percent each year since the late 1990s.
Wednesday, the center proposed a request for additional funding to Minnesota lawmakers as they begin their state bonding tour.
This tour is one of the first of many across all regions in the state with about 40 projects in each region.
Those at the International Wolf Center are saying this project is critical to the future of tourism in northern Minnesota.
It’s more of a wolf’s howl, and less of these howls….
“I’ve already been there, I’ve seen it, what’s new?”
That the International Wolf Center hopes to hear.
“There’s not many places where you can come and see a timber wolf face to face,” said Rub Schultz, Executive Director at the International Wolf Center.
Wednesday, Minnesota senators stopped in Ely to begin six weeks of bonding tours.
“We’ll have normally about three, three-and-a-half times more requests than we can afford to fund,” Chair of the Senate Capital Investment Committee LeRoy Stumpf explained.
Schultz and his staff at the IWC asked the state for $1.25 million to go towards updating exhibits – exhibits that right now only tell a story through 1983.
“It’s really missing roughly the last 30 years of the story of how wolves have recovered in the U.S.” Schultz said.
This year to date, the center has had about 32,000 visitors.
In the late 1990s, that number was around 45,000.
Schultz says an investment in the wolf center is an investment in the region.
“In today’s numbers we’re estimating it’s between five and six million dollars in local economic impact from visitors who come here,” explained Schultz.
If provided the funds, the staff says they would align with the times by adding more interactive exhibits, like a howling room, and a robotic wolf.
“If we’re not updating these exhibits, we become more and more irrelevant,” Schultz added.
After seeing it first–hand, lawmakers agree the need is there.
“I think that’s a very legitimate improvement that they’re asking for, I mean, you don’t want to always see the same kind of exhibit,” Senator Stumpf said.
But right now it’s too soon to say anything for sure.
“How it will fit in to the overall picture is difficult to say, since this is actually our first tour around the state,” said Senator Stumpf.
These senators will spend the next six weeks visiting all parts of the state and looking at all the requested projects.
Once the session starts, they will decide which projects are ready for – and deserving of – funding.