The Nation's first waterfowl refuge, the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, is in danger of drying up. Established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, the 47,000-acre refuge, located on the borders of Oregon and California, is home to more than 2 million birds representing a variety of waterfowl species. Pintails, mallards, gadwalls and canvasbacks are among the species that utilize the refuge during fall and spring migrations. Due to an increasingly dry season and short supply of water to the refuge, an estimated 20,000 migrating birds may die from avian cholera, a disease spreading fast in the large concentration of birds utilizing the shrinking marsh wetlands and open water habitat.
While the obvious answer is to allow more water into the refuge, the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation (the managing agency for water in the West) has other priorities for the life-sustaining liquid, putting wildlife habitat towards the bottom of the list of programs and agricultural initiatives competing for the limited supply. For now, the only plan for concerned volunteers is to remove and incinerate the dead birds to curtail further transmission.
The Lower Klamath Basin is included in the highly sensitive Southern Oregon, North Eastern California region known as SONEC. In recent years, the area has been plagued by a serious water shortage as well as a flawed water distribution system, causing huge problems for man and waterfowl alike. Ducks Unlimited is working diligently with its partners and landowners to explore water management issues and find resolutions from a waterfowl perspective.