LONG BEACH — This Sunday, June 11, the Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge are having an 80th birthday party at The Cove restaurant for the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge.

The Willapa National Wildlife Refuge (WNWR) is part of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which is spreads over thousands of acres in southwest Washington and northwest Oregon. WNWR was established in 1937 by President Franklin Roosevelt to protect migrating and wintering populations of brant, waterfowl, shorebirds and other migratory birds, and preserve and manage the important habitats and wildlife of Willapa Bay. The refuge currently manages about 17,000 acres.

WNWR is made up of several management units: Leadbetter at the northern end of the peninsula, Long Island in the southern part of Willapa Bay, and Porter’s Point, Bear River, Teal Slough, Tarlatt, Lewis and Reikkola Units at the south end of Willapa Bay. These units provide very diverse natural settings including grasslands, salt marshes, ponds, mudflats coastal forest, old growth forests, streams and riparian areas. This rich mix of habitats provide places for over 200 bird species to rest, nest and winter, as well as species of fish, amphibians and mammals. Protecting, restoring, and enhancing these diverse habitats is important for both migrating and resident species, vast numbers of migratory birds including waterfowl and shorebirds, spawning salmonids and threatened and endangered species such as the rare western snowy plover, the streaked horned lark and the marbled murrelet.

WNWR’s service programs consists of environmental education, interpretation, wildlife observation including birds, mammals, amphibians. Photography, hunting, fishing and shellfish harvesting are also part of the WNWR program. In addition, there are over 10 miles of trails for walking and hiking, five camp sites on Long Island and the opportunity for kayaking and canoeing in Willapa Bay.

WNWR has undertaken several new projects in the last few years, including the planting of early blue violets to help the Oregon silverspot butterfly. Another major initiative taken on by the refuge includes habitat restoration for western snowy plovers and streaked horned larks. Recent monitoring indicates that the plovers, while still rare, are doing well on its nesting area beachside at Leadbetter Point.

Trail maintenance by volunteers has been taking place this past year on a regular basis under the direction of refuge friends board member Susan Stauffer. The Tarlatt photo blind is being maintained by the Shoalwater Birders who are also collecting wildlife observations. I coordinate the bird-sightings project, sending them to the eBird data base at Cornell’s ornithological lab.

The South Bay trail at Tarlatt, at the foot of 95th Street, where a new entrance and parking has been established has also been a major project for the refuge. A walk to the end of the trail provides a beautiful view of Willapa Bay and Talatt Slough. Habitat restoration of the area toward Porter’s Point and Lewis and Reikkola units is happening now. Soon the view will encompass a complete area teeming with wildlife for all to enjoy. It will offer more protection to many shorebirds, waterfowl and fish.

Another major project was the improvement of Greenhead Slough for the benefit of salmon. Spawning salmon are now delighting many a hiker at Greenhead every fall.

Last but not least, one of the most exciting projects is working toward building a New Resource Center on refuge lands to the east of Sandridge Road.

These are but a few of the accomplishments and projects given to the community and the wildlife of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge by the refuge and the friends group!

We will be celebrating these and other accomplishments on the 80th birthday of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. The Friends of the WNWR are hosting a birthday party at The Cove at the Peninsula Golf Course on June 11 from 4 to 7 p.m. There will be great food and drinks, outdoor games and a raffle. Tickets are $30 per person or $50 a couple. There are a still some seats left. It is first-come, first-serve. Seating is limited to 40. You can make a reservation at 80thbirthday-party.eventbrite.com. Please join the celebration! I hope to see you there!

Dr. Madeline Kalbach, a board member for the Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, writes about birdwatching and the environment for the Chinook Observer.

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