Contact: Bob Flores, (360) 887-4106 FW1PlanningComments@fws.gov
The draft comprehensive conservation plan and environmental assessment (DCCP/EA) for Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge was released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for public review and comment. The draft plan outlines management goals, objectives, and strategies for the Refuge over the upcoming 15 years and includes an analysis of proposed management alternatives for the refuge.
The 30-day public comment period begins today and comments must be received by July 16.
“Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge provides 5,218 acres of important pastures, freshwater marshes, floodplain forest, and oak woodlands that sustain migrating and overwintering waterfowl, breeding and migrating landbirds, and many other species,” said Bob Flores, the manager of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex. “The Refuge also preserves the most intact archaeological site on the lower Columbia River, providing evidence of at least 2,300 years of continuous human occupation. The Refuge is also a place where people can share a bond with nature and each other, by passing on outdoor traditions to new generations.”
Important objectives for the refuge include helping preserve the natural Columbia River floodplain, managing to maximize habitat for waterfowl and other wetland wildlife, and providing wildlife-related recreational opportunities.
The refuge was established, along with 3 other refuges in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, to secure vital winter habitat for dusky Canada geese and other wintering waterfowl. With subsequent changes to nesting habitat and reduction in dusky populations following the violent earthquake of 1964 in Alaska, the need for secure wintering habitat became even more important.
The draft plan and environmental assessment identifies and evaluates four alternatives for managing the refuge. The proposed action is to implement Alternative 2, which the Fish and Wildlife Service believes will best achieve the refuge purpose, vision, and goals and contribute to the National Wildlife Refuge System mission, while at the same time being cost efficient and practical to implement.
Alternative 1 – the no action alternative – assumes continuation of current management programs and is considered the base from which to compare the action alternatives.
Alternative 2 - the preferred alternative - describes changes to habitat management, including: managing wetlands to increase productivity, reduce invasive species, and reduce water pumping costs; increasing cropland and wet meadow acreage to benefit dusky Canada geese and sandhill cranes; restoring floodplain forest and oak woodland habitat; conducting habitat assessments to guide future habitat restoration; conducting feasibility studies for reintroducing native species such as Columbian white-tailed deer; and increasing inventory and monitoring efforts. As in Alternative 1, providing high-quality green forage for geese and controlling invasive species would remain high priorities. The refuge would continue to provide opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation. The waterfowl hunt area and location would remain unchanged. The existing auto tour route would continue to be open year-round, but would be slightly shortened (from 4.3 to 4.0 miles) to reduce disturbance to dusky Canada geese and cranes. A new access point to the River ‘S’ Unit would be developed, including a 2-lane bridge from the Port of Ridgefield property. A seasonal 1.5-mile dike-top wildlife observation trail would be constructed on the River ‘S’ Unit. Environmental and cultural resources education and interpretation programs would increase.
Alternative 3 is similar to Alternative 2 in terms of proposed changes to habitat management, except that slightly more bottomland forest would be restored, and slightly more acres of crops would be grown. The waterfowl hunt area and location would remain unchanged, however, core dusky habitat on the south end of the River ‘S’ Unit (207 acres) would be closed to goose hunting. Duck hunting would continue to be allowed in this area. The existing auto tour route would continue to be open year-round, and remain at its current length (4.3 miles). The current access point to the River ‘S’ Unit would continue to be used, however a 2-lane bridge at would be constructed at the current bridge location to eliminate the at-grade railroad crossing, and the current River ‘S’ Unit entrance road would be improved. A seasonal 1.5-mile dike-top wildlife observation trail would be constructed on the River ‘S’ Unit. Environmental and cultural resources education and interpretation programs would increase.
Alternative 4 is similar to Alternative 2 in terms of proposed changes to habitat management, except that slightly more bottomland forest would be restored, and more acres of crops would be grown. The south end of the River ‘S’ Unit (207 acres) would be closed to hunting, and 250 acres of Bachelor would be opened to waterfowl hunting. The south end of the auto tour route would be closed during the waterfowl and crane migration season (October 1-March 15), reducing its length from 4.3 miles to 2.6 miles during that time. These actions would provide a larger contiguous sanctuary for dusky Canada geese and sandhill cranes on the Refuge’s south end, a core use area for these species. A new access point to the River ‘S’ Unit would be developed, including a 2-lane bridge from the Port of Ridgefield property. A seasonal 1.5-mile dike-top wildlife observation trail would be constructed on the River ‘S’ Unit. Environmental and cultural resources education and interpretation programs would increase.
The comprehensive conservation plan/environmental assessment is available on the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/pacific/planning and may also be accessed from the refuge’s Web site http://www.fws.gov/ridgefieldrefuges/ridgefield. It is also available at the following libraries: Ridgefield Community Library, Vancouver Community Library, and the Multnomah County Central Library. Compact disks or hard copies can be requested from the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge at 360/887-4106. Comments must be received by July 16 and can be mailed to Project Leader, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex, P.O. Box 457, Ridgefield, WA 98642 or sent by fax to 360/887-4109. Comments also may be e-mailed to FW1PlanningComments@fws.gov; include “Ridgefield NWR DCCP/EA” in the subject line. Public comments will be addressed in the final CCP/EA, scheduled to be completed in fall 2010.
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