CHINCOTEAGUE, VA. -- Federal officials say entrance fees that will begin this month at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and 18 other preserves nationwide will help protect wildlife and pay for purchasing new wetlands.

"We are losing our marshes at the rate of nearly 500,000 acres a year, and this is dealing a wicked blow to waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife," said William Horn, assistant interior secretary for fish and wildlife and parks.

Chincoteague is one of 19 refuges that have been identified nationwide as suitable for charging entrance fees, the U.S. Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service said in a news release from its regional office in Newton Corner, Mass.

The fees will take effect Sept. 15.

Visitors have a choice of paying a daily fee or purchasing a seasonal pass. Daily fees vary from $2 to $5 for private vehicles and motorbikes. Frequent visitors can buy a $10 Duck Stamp that serves as a year-round pass for the purchaser and accompanying passengers.

Other passes, such as the Golden Eagle and Golden Age passes that offer free admission to national parks, will be honored at Chincoteague and the other wildlife preserves.

In addition to Chincoteague, other eastern refuges that will charge fees are Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, Montezuma refuge in New York and Parker River in Massachusetts.

The payment of entrance fees to selected refuges is a provision of the Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986. The legislation requires that 30 percent of the daily fees collected be used for refuge management, with the remainder going to the Migratory Bird Conservation Account.

Proceeds from the sale of the stamps are deposited in the migratory bird account to purchase wetland habitat.