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Rancher aids watershed


H&N photo by Steve Kadel
Danette Watson, left, of the OSU Extension Service and Klamath Watershed Council, Fish and Wildlife Service consultant Hugh Barrett, center, and Sonner Crume, right, inspect a springs during a tour of Crume’s Bar S Ranch on Wednesday.

July 27, 2006

SPRAGUE RIVER - Sonner Crume stopped his pickup truck near a meadow on his 920-acre Bar S Ranch and hopped out of the cab.

The lifelong Klamath County resident showed some visitors where he and friends used to camp as children, and the rocky outcroppings they climbed.

Crume, 53, joked that he's gotten “too old and fat” for climbing, but his love of the land remains unchanged.

“This place is special to me,” he said.

The care he's given the area is evidenced by lush grass. Not that long ago, water that now fills 5 acres was siphoned by juniper trees before it could reach the meadow.

Junipers removed

Crume removed 30 junipers and changed the complexion of the site. Water now flows from three springs that had been almost dry before.

“This has tripled in flow,” Crume said, pointing to the springs.

“There's water poppin' out everywhere,” agreed Hugh Barrett, a consultant hired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to advise Crume and other ranchers about upland watershed practices.



Barrett was joined by Danette Watson of the Oregon State University Extension Service and the Klamath Watershed Council. They spent Wednesday morning touring Crume's ranch to offer suggestions for his conservation efforts.

More junipers targeted

Crume is beginning a juniper removal project with plans to rid 100 acres of the ever-expanding species. He hopes it will result in increased stream flows, better water quality and improved cattle grazing.

He drove Barrett and Watson to a butte where the juniper project will be focused during the next three years. Barrett looked around and nodded knowingly.

“Over 80 years the juniper has filled in this complete area and forced everything else out,” he said.

With coaching from Barrett and Watson, Crume's game plan calls for seeding the heavy juniper stands with grass and small broad-leafed plants before removing trees.


Logs will be removed, but slash will remain on the ground. That's to keep the soil cool, allow nutrients from junipers to recycle into the earth, and reduce overland water flow. The branches also provide protection for seedlings.

Klamath Tribes member

Crume, a Klamath Tribes member, anticipates some economic benefit from better grass for his cattle. But he's just as interested in watershed enhancement for its benefits to the ecosystem.

Better habitat is good for fish and wildlife, especially the deer Crume prizes. Up to 1,000 deer used to winter on the property, but they're much fewer in number now.

“I want to see them come back,” Crume said. “We've got to start protecting them. I was born and raised here. I remember what used to here, and I want it to come back.

“I want to do my part to help Mother Nature.”

Better water storage

Watson said the rancher is doing plenty, and his juniper project can be an example to other ranchers wanting to increase water storage in the uplands.

“It's good stuff,” Watson said of Crume's plan.

Barrett cautioned that ranchers shouldn't try to get rid of all their juniper.

Juniper in its place

“This isn't a juniper eradication campaign,” he said. “This is to get juniper back to its natural place in things.”

Barrett visits Klamath County once a month from spring through fall, with trips paid for by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He was scheduled to meet with other ranchers today and Friday to discuss similar enhancement programs.

“If we can get these watersheds functioning like they should, the droughts won't be as frequent or severe,” he said. “The West by its very nature is dry, but we've made it more arid than it needs to be.”


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