WILLAPA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE - Culminating the year-long environmental education curricula for Pacific County fourth-graders, Willapa National Wildlife Refuge staff hosted nearly 100 students and teachers in a coordinated outdoor visit to the refuge's Tarlett Slough unit, 95th and Sandridge Road, on Tuesday.

Students interacted with volunteers at six field stations to experience aquatic specimens, amphibians, birdlife, and mammals in six separate education stations.

Willapa National Wildlife Refuge has supported a successful and comprehensive education program for the past three years to the seven fourth grade classrooms from three different school districts. The four in-class sessions and field trip exercise provided each year are recognized by educators as especially effective in instilling a sense of conservation stewardship in general and refuge appreciation in particular.

Joining the students at the event were Hilltop teachers, refuge staff, and volunteers from the Friends of Willapa NWR and Sea Resources.

Willapa Bay is the largest estuary in the northwest U.S. region outside Puget Sound, covering approximately 88,000 acres at high tide with over 100 miles of shoreline.

The bay is the defining geography for the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, which comprises nearly 14,000 acres of upland forest, tidelands, beach dunes, freshwater marshes, diked grasslands, and other wetland habitat.

Aquatic habitats and grasslands on the refuge support migratory populations of literally hundreds of bird species such as black brant, trumpeter swans, Canada geese, scaup, canvasback, bufflehead, scoters, and American wigeon. The refuge also hosts some of the largest concentrations of shorebirds on the Pacific Coast, including the endangered western snowy plover and marbled murrelet. Black bear, black-tailed deer, Roosevelt elk, bats, bobcats, and grouse can be found in the forests and upland habitats.

The cool, wet climate of Willapa Bay makes the area a "hotspot" of amphibian and fish diversity, where refuge habitats support over half of the 24 native amphibians that occur in the state and provide spawning grounds for Chinook, coho, and chum salmon, steelhead, and cutthroat trout.

Willapa is one of over 500 national wildlife refuges in the United States operated by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the only national network of public lands in the world set aside specifically for the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants. Encompassing 93 million acres, the Refuge System boasts more units than the National Forest System and more acres than the National Park System. The Refuge system celebrates 100 years of conservation success in 2003, its Centennial Year.

About the Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge

The Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge is a non-profit 503 (c) (3) organization dedicated to support and enhancement of Willapa Refuge programs. The Willapa Friends is one of over 220 volunteer groups nationwide who partner with local refuge staff to support specific Refuge programs. Nearly 200 individual and corporate members support Williapa Friends' education, maintenance, advocacy, and general assistance activities under direction of Refuge staff.

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