What We Do

The Seal Beach NWR is managed in accordance with the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as amended and pursuant to the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge Management Plan. This plan was approved by the Commander Officer at NWSSB and the Regional Director of the Service in May 1974.  Management actions are directed primarily at preserving and managing the habitat to support the light-footed Ridgway’s rail and the California least tern, as well as preserving habitat used by migrant waterfowl, shorebirds, and other water birds.

Ongoing wildlife and habitat management actions on the refuge, some of which are funded by the U.S. Navy, can be divided into several categories: endangered species management, habitat restoration and maintenance, and general wildlife management.  

Other management activities include the Sediment Augmentation Project and Research and Surveys

Management and Conservation

Refuge Planning 

National Wildlife Refuge planning sets the broad vision for refuge management and the goals, objectives, strategies, and actions required to achieve it. Planning ensures that each refuge meets its individual purposes, contributes to the Refuge System’s mission and priorities, is consistent with other applicable laws and policies, and enhances conservation benefits beyond refuge boundaries. 

Comprehensive Conservation Plans 

Comprehensive Conservation Plans (CCPs) are the primary planning documents for National Wildlife Refuges. As outlined in the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, as amended, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is required to develop CCPs that guide refuge management for the next 15 years. CCPs articulate the Service’s contributions to meeting refuge purposes and the National Wildlife Refuge System mission. CCPs serve as a bridge between broad, landscape-level plans developed by other agencies and stakeholders and the more detailed step-downs that stem from Refuge CCPs.  

The 2012 Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan for Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge can be found here: https://ecos.fws.gov/ServCat/Reference/Profile/5959 

Step-down Plans 

CCP step-down plans guide refuge-level programs for: (1) conserving natural resources (e.g., fish, wildlife, plants, and the ecosystems they depend on for habitat); (2) stewarding other special values of the refuge (e.g., cultural or archeological resources, wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, etc.); and (3) engaging visitors and the community in conservation, including providing opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation. Like CCPs, step-down plans contribute to the implementation of relevant landscape plans by developing SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) objectives, strategies, implementation schedules, and decision support tools to fulfill refuge visions and goals. This ensures that refuges are managed in a landscape context and that conservation benefits extend beyond refuge boundaries.  

Management for California Least Terns at NASA Island

  • Pre-nesting season site preparation, as needed (weed control, substrate enhancement)
  • Eyes on the Colony (predator monitoring program supervised by the Refuge)
  • Weekly nest site monitoring during the nesting season
  • Predator management

Management of Light-footed Ridgway’s Rails

  • High tide counts and spring call counts (to obtain breeding population size estimates)
  • Monitoring during nesting season
  • Maintenance, construction, and deployment of nesting platforms
  • Predator management

Habitat Management

  • Invasive plant species control and removal
  • Native plant propagation in native plant nursery
  • Habitat restoration through plantings and broadcast seeding
  • Trash and debris removal
  • Culvert maintenance and replacement, as needed to maintain tidal flow

Wildlife Management

  • Monthly night mammal surveys
  • Monthly high tide and low tide bird counts
  • Ongoing fish and wildlife research partnerships with other federal, state, and local agencies as well as colleges and universities
  • Injured wildlife rescue and response on refuge lands 

Trapping Occurs on this Refuge

Trapping is a wildlife management tool used on some national wildlife refuges. Trapping may be used to protect endangered and threatened species or migratory birds or to control certain wildlife populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also views trapping as a legitimate recreational and economic activity when there are harvestable surpluses of fur-bearing mammals. Outside of Alaska, refuges that permit trapping as a recreational use may require trappers to obtain a refuge special use permit. Signs are posted on refuges where trapping occurs. Contact the refuge manager for specific regulations.  

Our Projects and Research


Seal Beach NWR strongly encourages and supports research that benefits Refuge Management and does not detract from the mission, goals, or objectives of the refuge.
Currently, much of the FWS funded research on the Refuge is focused on: 
•  climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

Learn more about climate change

•  sea level rise, 
•  land subsidence, 
•  and long-term sustainability of the Refuge’s habitats and species. 

The goal is to protect and enhance Refuge populations of endangered species while also ensuring the conservation of other fish, wildlife, and plants for future generations of Americans. 

Current research supported by the Refuge but funded and carried out by other agencies or organizations include the following: 
•  green sea turtle distribution and abundance, 
•  tiger beetle distribution and abundance, 
•  round stingray studies (genetics, distribution, contaminants, electronic recognition, & parasites), 
•  California least tern geolocator study, 
•  historical tsunami deposit study, 
•  marine invertebrate distribution and abundance, 
•  fish distribution and abundance, 
•  and small mammal distribution and abundance.  

SoCal Urban Wildlife Refuge Project

Learn how by working together with program partners we are helping city-dwelling communities re-connect with nature and building stewards for the environment. 

Law Enforcement

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers have a wide variety of duties and responsibilities. Officers help visitors understand and obey wildlife protection laws. They work closely with state and local government offices to enforce federal, state and refuge hunting regulations that protect migratory birds and other game species from illegal take and preserve legitimate hunting opportunities.

Laws and Regulations

A Special Use Permit is required for any non-FWS directed research or other proposed use of the Refuge.