Newsroom Midwest Region

January 11, 2017

Sabrina Chandler, 507-494-6218,

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalizes refuge name change

The Loess Hills at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri. Photo courtesy of Jason Miller.
The Loess Hills at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri. Photo courtesy of Jason Miller.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe has officially changed the name of Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge to Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge.

Much has changed in the United States since Franklin D. Roosevelt first established the refuge through Executive Order 7156 in 1935. Historically, the refuge derives its name from Squaw Creek, a stream originating about 30 miles north in Nodaway County, Missouri. While the creek is an important part of refuge hydrology and related habitats, and is steeped in history and local lore, the word “squaw” is offensive in contemporary context and is no longer an acceptable name in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Our decision is consistent with more than two decades of work across the American landscape to end derogatory naming practices for geographical names, as well as the common names given to plants and animal species across North America. It is important that federal lands within the National Wildlife Refuge System are respectful to all cultural and ethnic groups. Because the refuge was established through executive order, the Director has authority to rename the refuge. In addition to this renaming, our agency also recently changed the name of Halfbreed Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Montana to Grass Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Our policy regarding the naming of national wildlife refuges also states that the Director “must give first preference to a geographic or geologic feature identifiable with the unit’s location, if the feature significantly affects the use or natural resources of the area.” The name Loess Bluffs reflects interest from key stakeholders who recognize the Loess Hills as an identifying feature of the area. This change affects only the refuge name, not the creek itself.

Overlooking the refuge from the east, the Loess Hills habitat, also referred to in historic records as ‘Loess Bluffs,’ is a geologic formation of fine silt deposited after the past glacial period. These unique hills stretch from about 30 miles south of St. Joseph, Missouri, to northern Iowa. Some of the last parcels of native plants, remnants of a once vast prairie, can be found on the refuge. Although this geologic formation is found elsewhere, the area of the deepest silt is found in the vicinity of the refuge. Based on this geologic feature, and in compliance with our policies, the refuge has been renamed Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge.

“Our staff have been going about the usual planning process to update various aspects of refuge infrastructure, due to normal wear and maintenance, over the last eight months,” said Refuge Area Supervisor Sabrina Chandler.

“This includes creating work plans for updating signage and brochures, as well as supporting websites and other information that we provide to the public. So, now is a perfect time to implement the name change and avoid additional costs in the future,” continued Chandler.

Since its establishment, the refuge has provided important habitat for resident and migrating waterfowl, and has been an important part of the community. The complete change over to the new name will take some time to implement, so we ask for the public’s patience in allowing time for the transition.

For more information about our policy on refuge names visit: