Established in 1972, the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge is administered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to protect and conserve essential habitats for threatened and endangered species.
These wetlands were protected for the survival of the endangered California least tern and light-footed Ridgway’s rail, and to provide quality habitat for migrant waterfowl, shorebirds and other water birds. The 965-acre refuge is located within the Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, in Orange County, California and encompasses remnant saltwater marsh in the Anaheim Bay estuary. Seal Beach NWR serves as a critical stopover and wintering habitat for thousands of birds that migrate up and down the Pacific Flyway each year. The refuge also serves as an island of habitat in the midst of a dense urban setting for a wide variety of fish, wildlife, and plants. Wildlife ranges from peregrine falcons and ospreys to grey smooth-hound sharks, round stingrays and green sea turtles, monarch and painted lady butterflies to microscopic aquatic invertebrates.
The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.
In 1944, the Department of the Navy acquired about 5,000 acres of land in and around Anaheim Bay from the Alamitos Land Company.
Interest in establishing a Refuge at Anaheim Bay on Navy land was initiated in 1954 by waterfowl hunters seeking opportunities for public hunting areas in coastal Orange County. A number of private duck clubs had been established in the vicinity of Anaheim Bay, but there were no areas open to the general public.
In 1963, Congressman Richard Hanna told the Service he was interested in establishing a Refuge between Huntington Beach and Seal Beach, just behind Bolsa Chica and immediately east of Highway 101. The Service responded that such an acquisition would be too costly and instead recommended designating part of the Naval Weapons Station as a waterfowl sanctuary under Defense Department Directive Number 5500.5, which required a cooperative plan for the management of fish and wildlife resources. This cooperative plan for 600 acres of tidal marsh on Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach was approved in 1964 through a three-way agreement among the Navy, the Service, and the California Department of Fish and Game.
Through the efforts of Congressman Craig Hosmer, Public Law 92- 408, authorizing the establishment of a National Wildlife Refuge on Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, was signed by President Nixon in August 1972.
An amendment to the “General Plan for the Use of U.S. Navy Lands and Waters for Wildlife Conservation Management” was approved in 1972, resulting in the addition of an eight-acre parcel to the Refuge. This parcel, which is separated from the rest of the Refuge by the main channel into Huntington Harbour, is located adjacent to Pacific Coast Highway at the south end of Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach.