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From farms to wetlands; Walking Wetlands program benefits farmers, refuges and wildlife
by Jill Aho, Herald and News 11/20/08

Photo courtesy of Anders Tomlinson - Rob Crawford and Ron Cole have worked together on the Walking Wetlands program, a partnership between irrigators, Basin refuges and the Bureau of Reclamation.

   Two Klamath Basin refuges are working in partnership with the Bureau of Reclamation and local irrigation districts to temporarily convert farm fields into wetlands for several years in a program called Walking Wetlands. 

   As a wetland, the fields provide habitat for migratory birds and since the program started, the converted fields have attracted species not seen in the Basin for decades, officials say. 

   In return, the farmland, when converted back into production, is more productive and weeds and pests are reduced or eliminated. After three seasons as a wetland, the soils qualify to be certified organic. 

   Farmers prepare fields for flooding as other fields come out of wetland and back into production, thus the wetland “walks” across their farms. 

   Tulelake-area farmer Rob Crawford, is among those participating in the program, working with Ron Cole, project leader for six refuges that make up the 200,000-acre Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
Side Bar
Basin refuges and the Kuchel Act

   Established in 1908, the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge was the nation’s first waterfowl refuge. Establishment of Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge followed in 1928.
   Irrigation was developed in the area, and the Bureau of Reclamation began leasing farm lands. Homesteading soon followed and occurred over time. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, concerns arose that continued homesteading would threaten waterfowl and wildlife habitat. 

   The two refuges are the only place where commercial agriculture is a legislated purpose. The 1964 Kuchel Act mandates the coexistence of wetland wildlife habitat and commercial agriculture.


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