Southwest Washington Congressional Delegation Urges U.S. Fish and Wildlife to Restore Funding for New Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
Cantwell, Herrera Beutler, Murray question agency decision to stop funding construction in 2021 budget
VANCOUVER – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, and U.S. Senator Patty Murray sent a letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Service’s (USFWS) Director Aurelia Skipwith expressing their disappointment over the exclusion of the construction funds for the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Community and Nature Center in the president’s fiscal year 2021 budget, despite its inclusion in last year’s budget request. Construction funds for Community and Nature Center were in the five year plan included in last year’s budget, and were originally scheduled to be provided in fiscal year 2024.
While the refuge serves as a destination for tens of thousands of visitors each year, a small trailer currently serves as both a building for administration officials and a visitor center.
“The residents we serve cherish what this Refuge represents: unique access to the natural beauty and native culture that are part of the identity of this region. We request that you provide us with a detailed explanation behind this funding decision. Additionally, we strongly encourage you to consider the critical importance of this project to the local community, and work with our offices to identify options to restore its funding as soon as possible,” Cantwell, Herrera Beutler, and Murray said in the letter.
The full text of the letter follows and is available here.
Dear Director Skipwith:
We write to express deep concern about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) exclusion of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (the Refuge) Multi-Purpose Building and Public Recreational Facilities construction project in the President’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. The exclusion of the project is a major disappointment for the Ridgefield community, and all of those throughout the region who were anticipating the completion of the new Community and Nature Center after its construction had been authorized by your agency the prior year.
The USFWS Fiscal Year 2020 budget request included $6.225 million for the construction phase of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Multi-Purpose Building and Public Recreational Facilities in the line-item construction five-year plan. Given your agency’s prior determination that the project met the standards for funding, your abrupt decision to remove the construction project from the five-year plan in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget request leaves the timing of a new center in jeopardy and demands detailed explanation.
The Refuge receives nearly 160,000 visitors each year, many of whom are students visiting for outdoor classroom educational activities. The Refuge factors into economic activity in the region as well; the tens of thousands of visitors provide a real benefit to the restaurants and other retail businesses in the Ridgefield area.
The facilities on site at the Refuge need vital upgrades to replace the small trailer that currently serves as the administrative office and visitor facilities with buildings that properly welcome the visiting public and enhance the visitor experience. While we are appreciative of USFWS efforts to begin work on the Refuge’s Multipurpose Building for administrative offices, it is important the Community and Nature Center facility for the thousands of visitors to the Refuge is not unnecessarily delayed.
The residents we serve cherish what this Refuge represents: unique access to the natural beauty and native culture that are part of the identity of this region. We request that you provide us with a detailed explanation behind this funding decision. Additionally, we strongly encourage you to consider the critical importance of this project to the local community, and work with our offices to identify options to restore its funding as soon as possible.
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