LA GRANDE - The Nature Conservancy has transferred, at no cost to the state, 136 acres to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to expand the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area near La Grande.

The property is adjacent to Hot Lake, a geothermal feature made world famous by a nearby spa and resort that prospered in the early 1900s. Today it hosts important wetlands fed by thermal springs critical to nesting and migrating birds, including sandhill cranes, American avocets, ring-necked duck and many other shorebirds and waterfowl species.

The Conservancy purchased the property from a private estate in 2002 with funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The grant for the purchase was secured by Ducks Unlimited, a nonprofit wetlands conservation group that has helped lead expansion of the state wildlife area.

The Hot Lake property is the latest expansion of the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area, which straddles Interstate-84 south of La Grande. The Conservancy has previously transferred properties totaling 823 acres, helping to bring the total managed area to more than 4,000 acres.

ODFW has been restoring natural water flow and wetlands to the Ladd Marsh refuge. Funding for the marsh expansion and restoration has been provided by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, the city of La Grande and others.

"We're grateful to Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy for their efforts to make the Hot Lake wetlands accessible to the public," said Dave Larson, wildlife area manager.

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