A state board has approved the $6.3-million purchase of 5,595 acres for a wildlife refuge as part of a plan to replace the defunct, selenium-tainted Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge. The Wildlife Conservation Board's three members voted to buy two parcels of land north of Los Banos, using money from a voter-approved 1988 wildlife bond measure. John Schmidt, the board's executive director, said the two parcels--Salt Slough and China Island--are located about eight miles apart, but will be administered as a single refuge called the North Grasslands Wildlife Area. Kesterson was closed four years ago after large numbers of deformed bird embryos were linked to selenium poisoning from agricultural runoff. The Bureau of Reclamation has filled 1,200 acres of Kesterson ponds with dirt to prevent additional poisonings.
From Times staff and Wire reports
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