Squaw Creek officially becomes Loess Bluffs

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Squaw creekThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services had finalized the name change of Squaw Creek to Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge.

According to a news release announced on Wednesday, Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe has officially changed the name.

The wildlife service said much has changed in the United States since Franklin D. Roosevelt first established the refuge through Executive Order 7156 in 1935. Historically, the refuge derives its name from Squaw Creek, a stream originating about 30 miles north in Nodaway County, Missouri. While the creek is an important part of refuge hydrology and related habitats, and is steeped in history and local lore, the word “squaw” is offensive in contemporary context and is no longer an acceptable name in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

“Our decision is consistent with more than two decades of work across the American landscape to end derogatory naming practices for geographical names, as well as the common names given to plants and animal species across North America,” the release stated. “It is important that federal lands within the National Wildlife Refuge System are respectful to all cultural and ethnic groups. Because the refuge was established through executive order, the Director has authority to rename the refuge. In addition to this renaming, our agency also recently changed the name of Halfbreed Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Montana to Grass Lake National Wildlife Refuge.”

The agency said the policy regarding the naming of national wildlife refuges also states that the Director “must give first preference to a geographic or geologic feature identifiable with the unit’s location, if the feature significantly affects the use or natural resources of the area.” The name Loess Bluffs reflects interest from key stakeholders who recognize the Loess Hills as an identifying feature of the area. This change affects only the refuge name, not the creek itself.

Overlooking the refuge from the east, the Loess Hills habitat, also referred to in historic records as ‘Loess Bluffs,’ is a geologic formation of fine silt deposited after the past glacial period. These unique hills stretch from about 30 miles south of St. Joseph, Missouri, to northern Iowa. Some of the last parcels of native plants, remnants of a once vast prairie, can be found on the refuge. Although this geologic formation is found elsewhere, the area of the deepest silt is found in the vicinity of the refuge. Based on this geologic feature, and in compliance with our policies, the refuge has been renamed Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge.

“Our staff have been going about the usual planning process to update various aspects of refuge infrastructure, due to normal wear and maintenance, over the last eight months,” said Refuge Area Supervisor Sabrina Chandler. “This includes creating work plans for updating signage and brochures, as well as supporting websites and other information that we provide to the public. So, now is a perfect time to implement the name change and avoid additional costs in the future.”

For more information about naming and renaming units CLICK HERE.