LINCOLN CITY, Ore. – The Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge, located on either side of Highway 101 a few miles south of Lincoln City, is a restored tidal marsh that protects the salt and brackish marshes, tidal sloughs, mudflats and coniferous and deciduous forestland. Established in 1991, it serves as habitat for migrating shorebirds and a myriad of other wildlife and as nursery grounds for Coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout. Though the land is closed to public entry, its tide sensitive waterways are not. There-in lies the pleasure for nature loving canoe and kayak enthusiasts and young U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) career women like Lindsay Raber.
“In the early 1900s, farmers had the land drained and diked so they could use it as pastureland for dairy cows,” said Raber, one of the environmental education interns for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service who teaches educational programs about shorebirds and the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge. “But, it was expensive to keep the pastureland diked and on top of that it continued to flood, so farmers donated and/or sold the land to USFWS.”
In 2003, This involved breaching 220 feet of dike, removing two dikes totaling 9,300 feet, filling 1,200 feet of artificial ditches and placing large woody debris in the marsh to improve habitat for anadromous fish. The project was completed through a partnership between the USFWS, Ducks Unlimited and the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians. Today, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles and other raptors are back roosting at the top of snags and a variety of estuarine dependant birds including the great blue heron, great egret and many species of waterfowl can be seen foraging in the tidally influenced waters.
Lindsay, who was born and raised in Arizona, discovered her love of the outdoors early in life. She attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where she earned a degree in Parks and Recreation Management with an emphasis on outdoor education. She interned in Boulder Colo., with the Thorne Ecological Institute and then worked in Big Bear Calif., at outdoor science camp. Before becoming the Wildlife Education Coordinator for USFWS, she worked an interpreter at the Vista House in the Columbia Gorge and then worked at Willamalane Park and Recreation District in Springfield as an afterschool program coordinator.
“Since January 2011, I’ve worked with fourth and fifth grade students throughout Lincoln and Coos Counties – both in the classroom, at Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge and here at the Yaquina Bay Estuary,” Lindsay said. “We teach them about how important it is to protect the plants and wildlife and how to keep these habitats safe and litter free for all that call the areas home. In a time when many of these kids are glued to their computers and video games, seeing the transformation that comes when they reconnect with nature is rewarding to me.
“However, I also love leading small groups of adults and families on educational trips through the waterways in canoes and kayaks. Once we enter the refuge area, we alternate between stopping to talk about the refuge, the wildlife, the restoration project, the natural history of the area and the importance of estuarine habitat before paddling ahead in personal exploration. It is so beautiful in there – the sounds of the highway even disappears.”
Though at present the National Wildlife Refuge canoe trip season runs from June through September and the remaining tours are full, anyone may rent or launch their own boats from the Siletz Moorage and experience the beauty on their own. For more information on the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge and other Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuges, visit http://www.fws.gov/oregoncoast/