Funding for new Canaan refuge visitor center included in FY 2019 Interior budget

Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge's headquarters and visitor center, now located in a 43-year-old former restaurant that was remodeled in 2003, will be replaced with a new building, thanks to a $7 million appropriation included in the Department of the Interior's 2019 budget.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has long been seeking a new visitor center/headquarters building for the 16,500-acre refuge, citing numerous deferred maintenance issues and lack of space for educational programs, administrative work, public presentations and interpretive exhibits.

In 2014, Fish and Wildlife announced plans to buy the Canaan Valley Institute's headquarters and science center off Corridor H near Davis for use as the new visitor center for the refuge. But instead, the building was sold to the National Youth Science Foundation, which had a previous agreement to acquire the structure for use as its new STEM Education Center.

Since then, the refuge's existing visitor center, located along W.Va. 32 in  has fallen into "undesirable condition," according to an analysis of the site by federal officials, according to U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

Capito began seeking funding for a new visitor center shortly after entering the Senate in 2015. Following this week's announcement of the $7 million appropriation, she said she looks forward to working with federal, state and local leaders to make sure the new visitor center "will help the refuge grow."

The Tucker County refuge, which includes West Virginia's largest wetland complex and 13 miles of the Blackwater River, became the nation's 500th National Wildlife Refuge when it was created in 1994. It attracts more than 30,000 visitors annually.

By:  Rick Steelhammer
Source: Charleston Gazette-Mail