Wildlife & Habitat
The Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge was established to provide wintering habitat for waterfowl, especially dusky Canada geese. With this mandate, the Refuge was created and approximately 5,300 acres has now been acquired. The Refuge contains a mosaic of seasonal wetlands, permanent wetlands, grasslands, upland forests, riparian corridors, oak woodlands, and cropland. Thousands of ducks, geese, and swans winter on the Refuge. Management emphasis is to provide habitat for wintering waterfowl. Of special concern are the habitat needs for dusky Canada geese, a subspecies which nests in the Copper River delta of Alaska and winters along the lower Columbia River and Willamette River valley in Oregon.
The Refuge currently manages water levels on about 1,000 acres of wetlands on the River S, Bachelor Island, and Ridgeport Dairy Unit. Water is pumped in to Refuge wetlands prior to the arrival of wintering waterfowl and pumped out in the early summer to promote the growth of desirable moist soil waterfowl food plants. Water control structures can provide management of water levels within the wetlands. The water delivery system provides water to wetlands during the winter for a variety of water birds, and is used to hold water in some units for vegetation management, rearing of ducks, and to support native amphibians/reptiles.
Cooperating farmers and Refuge staff manage approximately 1,500 acres of grasslands and crop to provide for wintering waterfowl. The refuge allows cooperators to graze cattle and harvest hay between late spring and early fall; and both cooperators and refuge staff mow pasture and canarygrass. These activities provide short, tender grass for Canada geese when they are on the refuge from October through April.
The Refuge contains several large blocks of native riparian forests. Riparian forest range from mixed species of native trees to nearly pure stands of mature ash and willow. These habitats are nurtured along the margins of the Columbia River and within the undiked bottomlands of the Refuge. These areas attract a diverse array of neotropical songbirds.