By: Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife

It’s almost February, and on the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex, things are getting interesting.  The great Pacific Flyway migration is winding down — up to a million waterfowl have visited the refuge, including Ross’ geese, Aleutian cackling geese, snow geese, green-winged teal, mallard and American widgeon.  The Tule Elk bulls are getting ready to shed their antlers, and the showy wildflowers that ring the unique endangered vernal pool wetlands are about to bloom.  Vernal pools are seasonal, temporary pools of water in grasslands that provide habitat for more than 40 different kinds of species.  As the water evaporates in these pools, different kinds of flowers bloom in concentric rings around them – it’s quite a show! Amid all of this natural hullabaloo is another kind of hubbub – a debate over whether or not the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge, part of the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex, should be expanded into San Joaquin County.

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Expanding the world’s largest network of wildlife refuges into San Joaquin County would attract rare and beautiful migratory birds, open up new boating and fishing opportunities, and reduce flood risk in urban areas, federal officials say in a new report.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says enlarging the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge is a “unique” opportunity to restore a major corridor of wildlife habitat along the second largest stream in California, and triple the number of refuge visitors in the process.

Stockton conservationist Jeremy Terhune, head of the group Friends of the Lower Calaveras River, said he feels the good of the project outweighs any perceived bad. Now, with the proposal in hand, is the time to discuss expanding the refuge, he said.

“It means jobs,” Terhune said. “It means outdoor recreational opportunities. It means habitat for birds, which are having a hard enough time as it is. Everybody benefits.”


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