RENEW IOWA: A group is trying to create a wildlife conservation education center on a plot of land in Marion County

We don’t usually get a chance to see bison, cougars, and wolves in Iowa. But, one group is trying to change that. A conservation organization in Pella is trying to bring wildlife back to a plot of land in the Red Rock area. And, they say they could use your help.

Ron DeArmond says he loves passing on his passion of wildlife to his four daughters and people across the state. He says, “We feel it’s important for people to understand the environment, eco-systems the animals that are in the habitat.”

His group The Pella Wildlife Company currently brings “wildlife ambassadors” like wolf pups to schools and events across the state. Now, the non profit organization wants to create the Red Rock Wildlife Education Center on 188 acres of land in Marion County. He says, “We’re unique in what we do. There’s nobody that does exactly what we offer. We’re not a zoological park. We’re not a museum. Our focus is conservation.”

The project will include a rehabilitation center. He says, “Red Rock area has the largest wildlife refuge in the state of Iowa. And, so take care of the animals that have been injured or orphaned.”

The site will also include an educational component. DeArmond says animals like wolves, bobcats and bears will go through behavior training so they can safely interact with the public and teach people how animals play a role in the environment. He says, “A lot of people are afraid of little bobcats, and bobcats are actually good to have around, especially if you have a garden and a lot of rabbits, you want bobcats around.”

Another component is called When Iowa Was Wild! You’ll actually be able to drive through the land and see all the wildlife. He says, “Featuring animals from the Ice Age to today and just tell the story of Iowa’s natural history.”

DeArmond says the drive through feature will help pay for the project and provide conservation tourism to the area. He says, “It’s important we connect or reconnect to the wildlife around us and enjoy nature the way it was created and appreciate what we have.”

As for how you can help, the group needs to raise $1 million by December 1st so they can buy the land. Pella Wildlife Company is in the running for a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant. You can vote for the project everyday during the month of October at www.refresheverything.com.