By: Alex Breitler, Record

STOCKTON – County leaders on Tuesday condemned the concept of a national wildlife refuge in San Joaquin County, even before one has been formally proposed.

After hearing from farmers with a truckload of worries, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to oppose the expansion of the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge from Stanislaus County in the south to an area roughly west of Manteca.

The concept, announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in May, is for the federal government to buy land from willing sellers, then slowly re-establish the junglelike riparian forest that once buffered streams across the Central Valley.

Jeremy Terhune, coordinator of advocacy group Friends of the Lower Calaveras River, told supervisors that his group is “very excited” about the refuge.

“These birds were here thousands of years before anybody else was in this Valley, and 95 percent of the habitat in this Valley has been decimated,” Terhune said. “We need to work together with our federal agencies and come up with solutions.”

Terhune said a refuge could provide new opportunities for Stockton-area children who rarely get outdoors.

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