We are Stewards of the RNWR

I contacted Byron Brink after a Letter to the Editor he wrote to the Columbian, and asked him to expand his comments on the Refuge. Here are his thoughts.


We are Stewards of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge – Part One.

When the adventurer drops their foot on the bridge, the dance begins. Mycorrhizal fungi stretch through the soil, gathering items for breakfast with the plants. Well-fed Camas flowers burst from the soil cascading violet over basalt outcroppings. Black tailed bumblebees mingle as they mine gold from the Camas. A lone bee buzzes to and fro, sprinkling gold onto a Columbian White Tailed Deer munching on a Cottonwood lunch. It’s fluffy white tail moves side to side. The adventurer yelps with glee at the sight. The deer bounds away and a flock of geese thunder across their lake as they fly to a deeper part of the refuge – reprimanding the adventurer along the way.

Trumpets announce the arrival of the Keepers to the Gates of Heaven, the sandhill cranes. A gust from a crane’s wing brushes the bark of a white oak tree. The old tree may only watch the fun of the dance, but her leaves can flap, twist, and rustle with each gust of wind. The commotion calms as the adventurer crosses back over the bridge, but the drum beat of the wildlife refuge will continue to reverberate all the way home.

Aldo Leopold, an early theorist of wildlife ecology, wrote of the presence a bear had on a mountain named Escudillo:

“There was in fact only one place from which you did not see Escudillo on the skyline, that was on top of Escudillo itself. Up there you could not see the mountain, but you could feel it. The reason was the big bear.”

To Leopold, the bear residing on the mountain is an essential part of what it means to experience the mountain. In a similar way, the biodiversity of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is an essential part of the experience. The activity of the soil organisms, Camas, bumblebees, deer, cottonwoods, geese, cranes, and the oak trees entices one to feel the pulse of the refuge as they wander.


What is Biodiversity?

In addition to the intrinsic value, biodiversity is crucial to ecosystem and environmental health. Defined, biodiversity refers to the quantity of different living species within a given area. It is also measured by variance and amount of habitat opportunities (a large oak tree and a small oak tree are of the same species, but they provide two different habitats). Having high levels of biodiversity increases an ecosystem’s resilience to damaging disturbances such as fire, flooding, pollution, disease, and encroachment of non-native invasive species.

Biodiversity may also be a tool in addressing climate change through enhanced ecosystem functions such as carbon sequestration. The result of multiple species filling multiple niches allows for a higher yield of ecosystem services. This is proven by a study in the journal BMC Ecology that finds forests with diverse tree species support more productive ecosystem functions than less diverse, or mono-culture forests (Aerts).

Protecting and enhancing the biodiversity of the refuge is important to our planet’s health and the enjoyment one finds in its riches. Excitingly, there are ways in which each of us may be stewards of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Next week I’ll share how we can help secure the sanctuary of the Refuge!

Sources & Acknowledgements:

Aerts, Raf, and Olivier Honnay. “Forest Restoration, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning.” BMC Ecology 11 (2011): 29. PMC. Web. 22 Feb. 2018.

Anderson, Eric. “Questions about the Refuge.” 15 Feb. 2018. Deputy Project Leader, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex, U.S. FWS.

Leopold, Aldo. A Sand county almanac and sketches here and there. OUP, 1968.

Zeiner, Samantha. “Questions about the Refuge.” 13 Feb. 2018. Administrative Assistant, Friends of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

Article Editors: Kaylene Brink & Emma Crippen

All photos of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge contributed by Emma Crippen



  1. What a lovely piece of writing. It reminds me what a treasure we have in our Ridgefield backyard. Thank you! I’m looking forward to the next segment.

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