ENOCH — The Southwest Wildlife Foundation is moving from its longtime home at Cedar Canyon Park and will soon be relocating to Enoch.
Martin Tyner, who along with his wife Susan started the foundation about 25 years ago, said the organization’s new location will be on a 1.3-acre site in the northern part of town, adjacent to Enoch’s dog park and animal shelter.
Tyner, who has devoted the past 50 years of his life to rehabilitating birds and other wildlife, said he would rather not dwell on the circumstances that prompted him to recently abandon plans for the Cedar Canyon Nature Park that he’d long envisioned near the mouth of Cedar Canyon.
“I don’t want this to be a negative on Cedar City, nothing more than to the effect of because of the current political environment within Cedar City, my organization has determined that the Cedar Canyon Nature Park is no longer a viable project,” Tyner told Cedar City News during an interview at his home in Enoch.
“We decided that if our organization’s going to progress, we felt it was necessary to get out of the Cedar City limits and look for opportunities elsewhere,” he said.
“Enoch has rolled out the red carpet and has been very proactive in bringing us into Enoch to be a part of their community,” he added. “They want the Southwest Wildlife Foundation to be headquartered in Enoch, so that’s why we’ve chosen to go there.”
Tyner went on to call Enoch City manager Rob Dotson “the real hero of this story.”
“To be honest with you, he is not the typical bureaucrat that I’ve had to deal with for the past 50-plus years,” Tyner said. “I sat down in his office and I explained the situation, what was going on and what we’re trying to accomplish. And Rob Dotson says, ‘Well, I’ve got an idea.’ And I’m going, ‘Okay, I like ideas.’”
“And he says, ‘We have four pieces of property in Enoch. Please go look at these pieces of property, and if any of them will work for you, come back and let’s sit down and talk.”
Ultimately, Tyner said he and his wife decided that the parcel near the dog park would be best for the foundation’s needs.
Soon thereafter, Enoch City Council unanimously agreed to lease the property to the Southwest Wildlife Foundation for $1 a year for the next 100 years.
Tyner said he then presented Dotson with a $100 check to pay for the next century up front.
“Instead of writing a $1 check every year, let’s just get it taken care of a hundred years in advance,” he recalled with a laugh.
The Tyners, who are themselves longtime residents of Enoch, say they appreciate the city’s willingness to help out.
“We have a community that has said to me personally, ‘We love who you are and we love what you do,’” Tyner said. “You have been such a tremendous asset to Utah and to Southern Utah, especially.”
“We have an unelected bureaucrat who’s willing to step up and solve a problem,” Tyner said of Dotson. “He was willing to take the problem and think outside the box, and step forward to help fix it.”
“It’s an incredible example of how the government should function,” Tyner added.
Tyner said the first phase of the upcoming plans will be to construct a raptor rescue facility capable of housing several large birds of prey during their rehabilitation.
“The center of the building will have eagle flight chambers that will be 20 feet wide and 100 feet long,” he said. “On the front of it will be our clinic, where we take in the injured animals and where the public can come in and look through an observation window to see what we’re working on.”
Tyner said construction on the raptor rescue center should commence by early fall. Instead of the traditional groundbreaking ceremony, he’s thinking of holding a tree-planting event instead.
“It’ll be a ‘put down roots’ ceremony,” he said.
Tyner said that once the raptor rescue center is completed and functional, a mammals facility will be the next phase. “And when that’s completed, I would like to build a little lecture hall on that little piece of property, so that we can do our educational programs,” he added.
During Cedar City News’ recent hourlong interview with Tyner, he received two phone calls from people who’d found wild birds needing help. Tyner gladly took in both, a Cooper’s Hawk that had fallen from its nest in St. George and a fledgling sparrow-like bird found by a passerby along a trail in Cedar City. In each case, Tyner told the helpful caregivers that he’d feed and take care of the bird until it could safely be released back into the wild.
The Southwest Wildlife Foundation, which is registered as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization, has raised more than $500,000 in donations over the past year or so to construct the new facility, Tyner said.
“We don’t receive a nickel of standard federal funding to care for these animals,” he said. “It’s all private donations, and that makes the kindness of all of these people so important to us.”
“The kindness out there is just literally overwhelming,” he said. “I can’t even wrap my head around it … people that I’ve never met from literally every corner of the planet.”
As much as he enjoys caring for injured and sick animals, Tyner said he believes his most important work is education.
“I save thousands more animals with every school program that I do, than I do by physically rescuing an animal,” he said. “I’m a strong believer in education, not legislation. That’s how we protect the environment, is to get people to see how truly amazing these animals are. Once they understand that, when they do go out into the wild, they don’t hurt them. That’s been my philosophy my whole life.”
For more information about the Southwest Wildlife Foundation, visit its website or its Facebook page. Additionally, its YouTube channel includes nearly 400 videos, some of which have attracted millions of views.
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