Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

From Farms to Wetlands, A partnership with agriculture
by Jill Aho, Herald and News 11/20/08

   Q:  In what ways do you work directly with area farmers? 

   Ron Cole: In the refuge crop-share program, farmers grow cereal grains such as barley and wheat, harvesting two-thirds for themselves and leaving one-third of the crop standing for wildlife. This helps the refuge provide thousands of acres of food for the millions of waterfowl that pass through the Basin each year. 

   New habitat for wildlife, new opportunities for the recreating public, the associated benefits to agribusiness and tourism are being created by private landowners who continue to provide diverse, high quality agricultural products. 

   Q:  How do you see agriculture affecting the refuges? What are the benefits and possible detractions? 

   Historically, agriculture has been perceived as both an asset and a liability to wildlife populations. The wetlands of the Klamath Basin were drained to help feed a nation, but many wild species were displaced and denied as a result. 

   Today, water is our most critical natural resource in the Basin. There is not enough water to go around. The refuges are last in priority to receive water, behind agriculture, tribal needs and the needs of endangered fish. With all that said, I see agriculture as an important partner to help the refuges reach our wildlife goals and habitat objectives. 

   Q:  How would you describe your relationship with area farmers? 

   I think it is good and getting better. Farmers, ranchers, and refuges have more in common than we often were able to admit. We all manage land in order to produce something and that means we share many of the same challenges to being successful. A challenge we share is demand for our products has increased, but the space and resources needed to produce our products is getting smaller. 

   Q:  Why do you think it is important to have good relationships with area landowners? 

   A key to improving the health of landscapes rests on the broad shoulders of private landowners who own and manage some of the most productive lands across America. We need to understand their concerns, their needs, their bottom lines, and respect them. 

   Q:  What difference do you think the cooperation with farmers has made? 

   By cooperating with farmers and ranchers, wildlife in the Basin has more than 7,000 acres of new wetlands to thrive in, and diversity is increasing. The partnerships have surely benefited fish, wildlife and rural farm families. Other wetland basins are looking at our cooperation and developing their own version of Walking Wetlands. Thatís exciting. 

   Q:  What are your hopes for the future? 

   Someday, I hope to fly over the Basin and see small wetlands, like sparkling jewels alongside fertile productive farmlands, together contributing to a vibrant, diverse Basin economy. I hope we can serve as an example of how working together, neighbor-to-neighbor, we can create something much better than when we go it alone.
Side Bar
Ron Cole

   Ron Cole is the project leader for six refuges that make up the 200,000-acre Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex. 

   Cole has a bachelorís degree in range and wildlife management from Humboldt State University. After graduating, Ron returned home to work with his familyís ranch and heavy equipment company, but after a time he left for Tulelake, beginning his career in the National Wildlife Refuge System. 

   Cole spent the past 27 years working in refuges, including 10 years as a biologist, 15 years as a refuge manager, and two years as a refuge supervisor for refuges in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. 

   He returned to the Klamath Basin in 2003 and lives with his wife Joan and their two teenage children, Lily and Ethan.
Home Contact


              Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

             Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2008, All Rights Reserved