White pelicans, Bear River Bird Refuge - Brigham City UT
The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge was created by Congress in 1928 to protect waterfowl on the flyway through the Great Salt Lake Basin. It covers 80,000 acres of marshes, sloughs and uplands at the delta of the Bear River, flowing out of the northern Wasatch Mountains. Early efforts to improve habitat and water quality for migratory birds in the 1920s had come to naught, so local hunters and conservationists sought the aid of the federal government.
The newly-renamed Bureau of Biological Survey took over management of all national wildlife refuges in 1933 under President Franklin Roosevelt, the number of which doubled during the New Deal years. The Bureau enlisted the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to undertake improvements to most wildlife refuges, including Bear River, Utah’s first NWR.
The CCC established Camp BS-1 in Brigham City to work on the refuge (the name of the camp changed more than once). The CCC men built dikes to hold water in marshes, canals to move Bear River water around, and water control structures to regulate flows and water levels. They also built roads along dikes into the marshlands, planted shrubs and grasses for the wildlife and built artificial islands to protect nesting birds.
One result of the CCC’s seven years of work on Bear River refuge was the end of frequent waterfowl poisoning by botulism in stagnant waters.
In 1940, the Bureau of Biological Survey was incorporated into a new agency, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which still manages all NWRs around the country.
Kenneth Baldridge, The Civilian Conservation Corps in Utah: Remembering Nine Years of Achievement, 1933-1942. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2019, pp. 214-217.
Project originally submitted by Richard Walker on September 20, 2020.
Additional contributions by Joan Greer.
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