Federal lawmakers push for Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge funding

The county’s region rich with diverse wetlands, grasslands and forests is a step closer to achieving its five-year plan of drawing in more visitors to visit its thousands of birds and other wildlife.

U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, called for continued federal funding to operate and protect 5,200 acres of land along the lower Columbia River at the western tip of Clark County.

The trio sent a letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife asking for the agency’s commitment to fund the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in the fiscal year 2023. This financial support falls in line with the lawmakers’ established five-year plan for upgrading a multi-purpose building and other public facilities on the land.

Improving the refuge facilities will foster more economic activity in the county by attracting more visitors to Ridgefield businesses, they wrote to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams. They added that the project would heighten the public’s experience and appreciation of the natural area and the creatures that dwell in it.

“The residents we serve cherish what this Refuge represents: unique access to the natural beauty and native culture that are part of the identity of this region,” they wrote.

Lawmakers previously secured more than $6 million in the fiscal year 2022 budget to upgrade a small trailer that serves as an administrative office and visitor buildings.

Prior to the planned upgrades, staff and storage areas were dispersed throughout the grounds in a modular building and four outbuildings. Additional projects address the creation of new walking trails, sidewalks stretching from the refuge to downtown Ridgefield, and restrooms.

The site, which hosts programs at the refuge and surrounding neighborhoods, engages thousands of people every year and is vital to the region’s tourism. Communities in the area faced economic decline because of challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, they wrote, and investing in the refuge with provide an economic boost for Ridgefield businesses.

Lauren Ellenbecker

Lauren Ellenbecker

Lauren Ellenbecker is a politics reporter for The Columbian.

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