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About Us > US Fish & Wildlife Service/Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge

The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge was established to preserve ten important estuaries that are key points along migration routes of waterfowl and other migratory birds. During harsh winters, the refuge's marshes provide vital food and cover for waterfowl and other migrating birds at a time when inland waters are frozen. The refuge also supports piping plover, least terns, peregrine falcons, bald eagles and other state and federally protected species. Nesting success of plover and terns has benefited through the increased habitat protection. In addition to anadromous fish, many commercially and recreationally important fin and shellfish rely on these coastal wetlands as critical nursery areas.

Refuge lands total approximately 4,700 acres in ten geographic units from Kittery to Cape Elizabeth, Maine. In 1989, the refuge boundary expanded to include salt marsh, freshwater wetlands and "critical edge" uplands around each of the nine divisions. In addition, the Biddeford Pool Division, the tenth division of the refuge, was created. This division serves as a key staging area in southern Maine for a large number and diversity of shorebirds. When it is completed, the refuge will be about 7,600 acres in size.

In 1984, a national estuarine research and education reserve was established in the Town of Wells, Maine. The reserve land is made up of portions of the Upper and Lower Wells divisions of the refuge. Together, the reserve and refuge function to further the knowledge and understanding of estuaries throughout the community. The goal is to promote an increased stewardship and, ultimately, a greater protection of the estuaries.

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