Long Beach, Wash. - Volunteers are needed to help kick off the inaugural opening of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge's Salmon Trail during the fall salmon spawning season.

Normally, the Salmon Trail is open only Monday through Friday, but the refuge managers say they would like visitors to be able to view the salmon run on weekends during the spawning season.

Volunteers can sign up for two or more shifts during the season. Planned dates include; weekends of Oct. 30-31, Nov. 6-7, Nov. 13-14, as well as either Oct. 23-24 or Nov. 20-21, based on when the salmon starts coming in. Shifts are 10 a.m. to 1p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. A training and orientation session will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct 9 at Refuge Headquarters.

Volunteers will be responsible for answering visitors' basic questions about the trail and the salmon as well ensuring that visitors keep their distance from the fish attempting to spawn. Backpacks with field guides, information on trail history and salmon biology will be provided to volunteers.

The trail opening this fall marks the fourth year of returning salmon on a restoration project that began eight years ago that yielded a record return of chum salmon to the creek last year.

"Between 400 and 500 salmon returned last fall, up from 300 the year before, and a mere dozen the year before that" said Kristine Massin, outdoor recreational planner at the Willapa Refuge. "This project will further help protect the salmon here as well as demonstrate that small creek projects can be relatively easily restored to productive conditions for wildlife. Visitors will enjoy this up close look at nature at its best."

Willapa National Wildlife Refuge hosts some of the largest concentrations of shorebirds on the Pacific Coast and provides habitat for the threatened Western snowy plover and a threatened seabird, the marbled murrelet. Black bear, black-tailed deer, Roosevelt elk, bats, bobcats and grouse can be found in the forests and upland habitats.

People who can't attend the training but are interested in volunteering, are asked to contact Massin, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Willapa National Wildlife Refuge at (360) 484-3482 or (kristine_massin@fws.gov)

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