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Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex Celebrates

Time capsule buried; to be opened in 2103.

Friends of Northern Virginia's only national wildlife refuge brought items for a stainless steel time capsule to be opened in 2103, when they gathered at the refuge's headquarters as part of the national centennial celebration of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Almost 200 items went into the capsule at the ceremony March 11 — a Girl Scout pin, a Gunston Hall paperweight, a gun club arm patch, Virginia's hunting and fishing regulations, maps and photographs of the area, a Virginia Bluebird Society button and local newspapers, including The Mount Vernon Gazette.

The Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex, on Occoquan Bay in southern Fairfax and northern Prince William counties, is a three-part, 3,200-acre protected area made up of Mason Neck, Occoquan Bay and Featherstone refuges.

National refuge officials rolled in on the "Blue Goose Express," a bus named after the system's symbol. Northeast chief Tony Leger said that the Potomac refuges provide a unique opportunity close to the seat of the federal government to show dignitaries the importance of refuges and their local partnerships. He cited the coordination of programs with the planned Virginia Science Museum to be located next door.

"This is a premier site that we should preserve for antiquity," said U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11th), "so that 100 years from now our grandchildren can enjoy it." Davis cited intense development pressures in suburban Washington that compete for the region's few, remaining open spaces.

OF THE THREE REFUGES in the complex, Mason Neck is the oldest and largest, at 2,277 acres. It was established to protect bald eagles that nest, feed and roost in its woods, marshes and on the river's edge. Occoquan Bay, created in 1998 by combining the previous Marumsco refuge and the former Harry Diamond Army Laboratory, has 640 acres of grasslands, marshes and shrub-forest areas. Featherstone is a 325-acre marsh and riverine habitat not open to the public.

Virginia Sen. Linda "Toddy" Puller (D-36th), sent a representative and wrote, "These wildlife refuges are vital to providing habitat for wildlife, protecting threatened and endangered species, and offering educational and recreational activities for thousands of Americans."

The events were part of national activities marking the 1903 start of the refuge system by President Theodore Roosevelt at Pelican Island, Fla. Managed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the nation's 540 refuges are devoted to conservation, providing habitat for animals and plants, including over 250 threatened or endangered species, in over 95-million acres of lands and waters.