Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

WHSRNews Update

Willapa Bay and Long Beach Peninsula: New Site in Washington State


Willapa Bay and Long Beach Peninsula WHSRN Site of International Importance, Washington, USA. /
© Monica Iglecia

Recently, the WHSRN Hemispheric Council voted unanimously to approve the designation of Willapa Bay and Long Beach Peninsula (Washington State, USA) as a site of International Importance within the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN). The site plays a critical role as a stopover point for an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 shorebirds each spring. Furthermore, Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus, Red Knot Calidris canutus, and Dunlin Calidis alpina pass through in numbers exceeding 10 percent of their Pacific Coast populations.

Willapa Bay is the second largest estuary along the Pacific coast of the US. The bay’s waters recede at low tides to expose nearly 50,000 acres of mudflats with abundant foraging opportunities, while the 27-mile Long Beach Peninsula provides beach and dune habitats for up to 50,000 shorebirds during high tide. Within the designated area is Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, which includes thousands of acres of mudflats, beaches, and sand dunes. Jackie Ferrier, project leader at Willapa National Wildlife Refuge commented: “This is quite an honor to be recognized for our importance to bird conservation. The refuge and Long Beach peninsula offer tremendous habitat for the birds, which translates into exceptional viewing opportunities for the public. We hope this official designation brings additional attention to the importance of the Washington coast and Willapa National Wildlife Refuge for wildlife.”

In addition to its importance for shorebirds, the site designation recognizes the efforts of 14 stakeholders including landowners, conservation groups, private businesses, and state and federal agencies around Willapa Bay and the Long Beach Peninsula. Current conservation actions in the area include a multi-partner invasive species eradication program. This effort has resulted in the almost complete elimination of nearly 8,000 acres of non-native cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), restoring significant portions of estuarine habitat for shorebirds and other native wildlife. Partners are also working to build a constituency of support for shorebirds through student art. Local youth-created artwork has been transformed into shorebird educational signs and installed along beach and bay access areas.

With the addition of Willapa Bay and Long Beach Peninsula, there are now 97 WHSRN Sites in 15 countries comprising more than 36.8 million acres (14.8 million hectares) of shorebird habitat across the Americas. The bay and peninsula join two other nearby WHSRN sites along the Washington coastline: the Columbia River Estuary to the south and Grays Harbor to the north.

The designation and community engagement activities at Willapa Bay and Long Beach Peninsula are part of a larger North American project under the Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative (AMBI), led by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC). The CEC AMBI project is working to identify and designate important sites for Red Knot and Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla, and to engage the communities at these sites in Arctic-nesting shorebird conservation. CEC is a tri-national organization dedicated to the protection, conservation, and enhancement of North America’s environment.

The public is invited to attend a site designation ceremony and student art exhibit on International Migratory Bird Day. The free event will be held from 2-4 p.m. May 13 at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum in Ilwaco, Washington.

For more information, please contact Jackie Ferrier (jackie_ferrier@fws.gov), Project Leader, Willapa National Wildlife Refuge Complex.