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.

11/9/2007 6:00:00 AM 
Email this article Print this article
Comment on this article
Hunters navigate the river as they scout for a location. Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Manager Ron Cole said Klamath Basin is great for hunters who want to roam free.
Klamath Basin Refuges hunting information and recent waterfowl surveys: www.fws.gov/klamathbasinrefuges/hunt.html

California Waterfowl Association website: www.calwaterfowl.org

Places to stay: www.fws.gov/klamathbasinrefuges/accomoda.html

Bird hunters flock to Basin
Farms offer critical food source for migrating waterfowl

By Jacqui Krizo for the Capital Press

Fifteen-year-old Ethan and his dad, Ron Cole, were hunting on Lower Klamath Lake when the teen shot a duck and his dog Pepper chose not to fetch it. About that time Ethan's concerned mom called on her cell phone and Cole affirmed that "yes, Ethan is still clean." A moment later Ron saw Ethan lying in a foot of mud trying to fetch his bird.

"He shot well," Cole boasted, "Ethan got six birds with 11 shots!"

It was another fine day of hunting for the elder Cole, manager of the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex on the California-Oregon border. He said the Klamath Basin is the most important stop for waterfowl on the Pacific Flyway. Approximately 2 million waterfowl fly down from Canada every year and spend several weeks in the Basin at the peak of the season in mid-November. They then migrate south to Central Valley and Mexico. Between 80 and 90 percent rest in the Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Refuges. Hunters harvest 6,000 to 12,000 of the birds.

The Klamath Basin sports the largest hunting program in wildlife refuges in the United States. Of 4,000 applicants, 300 hunters were on Lower Klamath Lake and another 500 in Tule Lake Refuge this year on the opening weekend. There were between 1,000 and 1,500 hunters the Monday after opening as there is no limit on hunters midweek.

"There are over a million birds here now," Cole said. "I've been told by some it's the best hunt in 20 years."

Klamath Basin hunting is different from other places - hunters don't have to get a blind and number and stand. Cole said hunters can get a boat, roam free; people aren't totally controlled.

Cole works closely with area farmers, conservation groups and volunteers to manage wildlife refuges and private land for productive habitat and farms. The Klamath Basin has become a showcase, attracting visitors from around the world to observe the Walking Wetlands program, which rotates farmland with wetlands. Cole said, "We can't do without ag for many of these species."

His philosophy is to take care of all the species as well as agriculture and not just selectively focus on one species.

But Endangered Species Act decisions can make that difficult.

"There are 489 species of wildlife in the Klamath Basin and the biological opinion deals with three," California Waterfowl Association President Robert McLandress said. "Every duck has to eat a fifth to a quarter of a pound, and every goose and swan eats pound or better per day. There are 200 million waterfowl use days that have to be fed in the Klamath Basin; that's about 70 million pounds of food. We couldn't even cover half that out of the natural systems; the other half has to come out of the farms."

He added the Klamath farmers are crucial to waterfowl. If farms are healthy, the waterfowl can serve people up and down the Pacific Flyway. Klamath Basin has the largest concentration of waterfowl in North America.

CWA, unlike many groups and agencies, focuses on restoring and managing habitat rather than acquiring it. McLandress compares managing birds to managing farms; an unmanaged crops has poor yield. When habitat and hunting are well managed, wildlife is abundant.

CWA writes grants and lobbies for funding for local habitat projects, hunting opportunities, training for disease control, and conservation education for youth. Every dollar contributed to CWA results in $10 for local projects in California.

McLandress said that some environmentalists think humans aren't part of nature and must leave nature alone.

"That's why the Endangered Species Act is an impractical way of caring for species and that's why more species are becoming endangered," he said. "Bird numbers in the Klamath Basin are good this year and we expect an excellent fall flight. The total number of waterfowl coming to California today is roughly the same as 50 years ago."

Harvesting birds, like harvesting crops, is good for the species, McLandress said. Nature takes some birds every year and "what we take, nature does not get." Studies show that regardless of hunters, the same percentage of birds die annually. Managers look at the bird population to determine how many can be taken without hurting the bird population.

"Hunting brings people to watch the sunrise as birds are coming, feel the cold air, and hear life," Cole said. "The real connection begins with kids as they clean the bird, cook it, then it's on his plate. Kids have a greater connection to wild things, and hunting and fishing helps seal between people and outdoors their connection to food."

Jacqui Krizo is a freelance writer.
Home Contact


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

             Copyright klamathbasincrisis.org, 2007, All Rights Reserved