USA — Five months after it was closed by a wildfire, Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge at Washougal is looking to reopen in February.
Flames on Oct. 5 destroyed a 150-foot-long boardwalk along with 140 acres of shrubs and grass in the 1,049-acre refuge. The fire, caused by a discarded cigarette, forced the popular hiking and bird watching area to close.
Jim Clapp, the refuge manager, said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working with Columbia Gorge Refuge Stewards and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff to replace the boardwalk with a less expensive gravel walkway. Engineers and wildlife experts are also looking at rechanneling the refuge’s Gibbons Creek so it better accommodates fish, Clapp said.
He said he is concerned that the vegetation, including a willow grove, damaged by the fire might not recover.
“We’ll have to wait until spring to see,” he said.
In an effort to get the refuge back in shape, the stewards have been working on Saturdays to weed out invasive species and plant native trees and shrubs.
The stewards hope to gather support and encourage more volunteers through their annual meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 at the offices of the Port of Camas-Washougal, 24 S. A St., Washougal.
Dan Rosenberg, executive co-director of the Oregon Wildlife Institute, will speak about the ecology and conservation of Western pond turtles. The turtles are found just upstream at Pierce National Wildlife Refuge near North Bonneville in the Columbia River Gorge.
Rosenberg received a dual bachelor’s degree in biology and wildlife science from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree and doctorate in wildlife ecology from Oregon State University.