Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, one of the first urban National Wildlife Refuges established in the United States, is 50 years old.

Ducks Unlimited joined in celebrating the refuge&squo;s birthday at a public event at refuge headquarters outside Freemont, California.

Don Edwards NWR features over 30,000 acres and is a critical component of protected habitats in the Pacific Flyway. Fifteen habitat types, more than 340 plant species and 280 bird species call the refuge home. Millions of shorebirds and waterfowl utilize the area during peak migrations. The refuge provides overwintering habitat for some of the largest concentrations of diving ducks in the Pacific Flyway. The lands operated and maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the bay area hold more wintering Canvasback than the rest of the state combined.

Once, the indigenous Ohlone lived in ecological balance and harmony with the bay. That balance changed when Spanish explorers arrived in the 1700s and was forever altered by the discovery of gold in California in the 1840s. The ensuing explosive growth took a toll on the delicate ecosystems of the bay area. Later the salt industry converted tens of thousands of acres of salt marsh into commercial salt ponds.

Conversion of wetlands to support development continued well into the 20th century, and today, nearly 85% of the Bay&squo;s original marshes and shorelines have been altered.

Don Edwards NWR was founded from a grassroots movement to save San Francisco Bay from complete development and conversion. With dedicated leaders like Florence LaRiviere, Art Ogilvie and San Jose Senator Don Edwards, their tireless efforts culminated in 1972 when the original refuge land was procured and the refuge established. Originally named the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, it was later renamed during the Clinton administration to include the Edwards, who was instrumental in driving the legislation. Today a host of waterfowlers, birders and other nature enthusiasts add to the 800,000 people that enjoy the refuge annually.

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 15 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit