The newest wildlife refuge in the Bay region moved from plan to reality in June as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation gave seven miles of waterfront land along Cat Point Creek in Richmond County, Va., to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"We are pleased to receive this property and to see the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge become a reality," said Ron Lambertson, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "The lower Rappahannock River region is one of our top 10 national priorities for protection, and is among the least developed of the Chesapeake tributaries and hosts numerous migratory birds."

The 1,112-acre tract, which includes more than 360 acres of wetlands along with farmland and pastures, adjoins the historic Mt. Airy property, is home to many songbirds and is an important resting site for waterfowl migrating along the Atlantic Flyway.

So far, 148 bird species have been found on the site, including a nesting pair of bald eagles. The area includes habitat for black duck, green- and blue-winged teal and the tundra swan.

Other species that use the site's shoreline and wetlands for spawning, feeding and shelter include the American shad, striped bass and yellow perch.

The land was purchased last year by the Trust for Public Land, a nationwide land conservation organization. The trust immediately gave the tract to the CBF to manage until it could be turned over the USF&WS.

During the past year, volunteers from the CBF and the Rappahannock River Resource Council began an extensive wetland restoration project at the sanctuary.

"CBF is honored to have been a part of this magnificent project and we look forward to continuing our work to expand the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge," said Estie Thomas, CBF Natural Resource Planner.

The USF&WS plans to open the property to hikers and bird watchers at a later, unspecified date.

The USF&WS, which has been working in the area for five years, is also negotiating with other landowners and conservation groups to buy land or development rights along the river.