U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision adds 4,310 acres to protected area

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed Friday to expand the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge by adding the Wapato Lake area.

The expansion adds 4,310 acres to the refuge, more than doubling its size to 7,370 acres.

'This addition shows a strong collaboration and commitment to the protection and restoration of the historic Wapato Lake lakebed,' said Ren Lohoefener, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service's Pacific region.

The Wapato Lake Unit, south of Forest Grove near Gaston in Washington County, supports waterfowl, shorebirds, anadromous fish and remnants of native Willamette Valley wildlife habitats.

Since the mid-1900s, biologists have surveyed waterfowl populations at Wapato Lake, identifying the area as prime habitat for wintering tundra swans and other waterfowl.

Refuge expansion is expected to contribute to the efforts across the Tualatin River basin to improve watershed health, protect remnant native habitats, restore rare native habitats, protect migratory bird habitat for wintering waterfowl and breeding neotropical songbirds, improve listed anadromous fish habitat, provide public access to beautiful natural spaces, and enhance cultural resources.

In 2000, a group of farmers in the Wapato Lake area petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to add lands in the lake bed to National Wildlife Refuge System. The final decision allows landowners in the area the opportunity to sell property to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The final decision is documented in a 'Finding of No Significant Impact' on the agency's Web site.

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