In the 20 years before the Heinz Refuge was established, over 95% of its original wetlandacreage was destroyed by dredging and filling, highway development, and landfills. The U.S. Congress, in response to this devastating loss, decreed that the first mission of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) was to restore wetlands that had been so badly misused.


In keeping with this mandate, USFWS has taken advantage of several funding opportunities to restore wetlands and other vital wildlife habitat. Since 1972, approximately 100 acres of filled land have been restored as marshes, ponds, and meadows.


The area first targeted for restoration was a large tract of land near the geographical center of the refuge. A dike constructed along its northern boundary closed it off from the tidal waters of Darby Creek, and the land was covered almost exclusively by Phragmites, an invasive plant with little wildlife value.


Over the next 30 years, as funding opportunities presented themselves, three parcels of this tract were restored as tidal marshes, and a fourth parcel became a large pond. To create new tidal marshes, the sand and gravel fill was removed, the tracts re-vegetated with marsh plants, and finally the dike was breached to restore the tidal flow of waters from Darby Creek. Pedestrian bridges were constructed over the dike breaches to allow visitors to hike the long dike trail from one end of the refuge to the other.


Even before the work was completed, birds and other wildlife flocked to these sites. Migratory waterfowl dined on the mudflats at low tide. Egrets and herons waded through the water searching for eels and fish, resident ducks found new nesting sites, and muskrats began building new lodges. Fish and aquatic insects flourished. Bees, dragonflies, and butterflies, turtles and frogs, returned in large numbers. Canoeists had new trails to explore, and hikers found new opportunities to use their binoculars and cameras.



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