Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Good for farmers and fowl: Lease bids up
By SARA HOTTMAN, Herald and News 3/10/11
H&N file photo by Andrew Mariman Wheat is one of the grains
grown in the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge that benefits birds.
The Bureau of Reclamation received more than twice as many bids as last year on federal lease lands, indicating optimism in the coming water year and better conditions for waterfowl in the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges Complex.
On Wednesday, the close of the bidding period, preliminary results show the Bureau of Reclamation received a record-setting 268 bids on 82 lots, generating nearly $3.15 million in winning bids, said Kevin Moore, spokesman for the Bureau’s Klamath Basin Area Office.
Last year, when the winter was dry and water deliveries were limited, the Bureau opened 55 lots for bid and received 109 bids. Winning bids generated $616,719, Moore said.
The Bureau runs the bidding process for the federal land lease program that is ultimately managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to benefit migratory birds that visit the Lower Klamath and Tule Lake refuges in the spring and fall.
Through the program, farmers lease land from the federal government and plant and harvest it as they normally would, but in proximity to birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway that reaches from Canada to Mexico.
“With the land lease program, even though farmers harvest 100 percent of their fields, there’s still a significant amount of crop residue they’re not able to harvest, and that’s a benefit to birds,” said Dave Mauser, supervisory biologist for the Klamath Basin refuges.
When farmers flood their lands, they create a sort of temporary wetland that is attractive to waterfowl. That helps improve biological diversity, Mauser said.
Within the land lease program, farmers can flood their land for two years, essentially creating a marsh, and after the two-year period drain the land and have it organically certified.
Sharecropping at the refuges
The Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges has another, smaller share crop program for farmers near the refuges.
Rather than pay to lease the lands, farmers plant barley or wheat and then agree to harvest only 70 to 75 percent of the crop, leaving the other 25 to 30 percent for birds, said Dave Mauser, supervisory biologist for the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges Complex.
Applications for this year’s program were due March 4, but the program recurs annually. Only professional growers with documented experience growing small grains are considered.
The program spans 2,372 acres of the Lower Klamath refuge. Preference is given to applicants who provide “walking wetlands” on private lands and will farm refuge cropland organically — a two-year process.
Cooperative farming agreements usually last one year, though the duration can be adjusted based on wildlife benefits associated with private land, walking wetlands, and availability of water.
Growers are responsible for all growing costs. Pesticide use is restricted to products containing MCPA, 2,4-D, dicamba and glyphosate.
Page Updated: Friday March 11, 2011 02:55 AM Pacific
Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2010, All Rights Reserved