Battle over use of Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge brewing


Washington State Representative Kevin Van De Wege of the 24th Legislative District has threatened legislation revoking federal control of Dungeness Spit. This in response to a proposed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conservation plan that would ban all jogging and horseback riding on the Dungeness Spit and nearby upland trails, Rep. Van De Wege (D-Sequim) is looking into legislation allowing the state to retake control of part of the spit.

While we understand that jogging and horseback riding are not normally thought as being incompatible with a ‘park’, a gentle reminder is that this refuge was not set up as a standard ‘park’, such as Fort Worden, but as a wildlife refuge’, to protect specific birds that were nesting there. It was established in 1915 for the specific purpose of protecting nesting shorebirds. The refuge was not created to help people jog or horseback ride. To repeat, it is not a “park” it is a refuge.

There apparently was an incident last year between a horse and a pedestrian that has led to this current situation. The person had serious injuries. Whether this refuge is suitable for horse riding is certainly a separate and debatable issue.

We believe that Representative Van De Wege, who was elected with great help from the environmental community, should sit down and work with Olympic Audubon to forge a plan to help the horse community and the refuge come to a solution. It may be that jogging may have to be rerouted around a more workable situation, and an educational program for the community be mounted to help people understand the purpose of this ’wildlife refuge.”

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