Thanks to grassroots cooperation from public and private partners in the Klamath Basin, including the Klamath Drainage District, landowners, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Ducks Unlimited, additional water began to flow from a newly completed pump station into the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge early this March. The drought has greatly impacted the wetlands in this region, threatening a key refuge habitat for millions of birds that use this space as a stopover during their migration.
“Approximately 80% of all waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway rely on the Klamath Basin to either rest and refuel during migration, to breed and raise young, or for summer molting. Ducks Unlimited is committed to collaborative, multi-benefit efforts that contribute to the ongoing success and resilience of the country’s oldest waterfowl refuge,” said Jeff McCreary, director of operations for Ducks Unlimited’s Western Region.
Ducks Unlimited recently completed the pump station project, funded by North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant funds with matching contributions from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Cal-Ore Wetlands and Waterfowl Council. The pump station is located along the Straits Drain and can re-use water within the refuge and water provided through a cooperative partnership with the Klamath Drainage District and landowners.
This cooperative partnership has allowed water used to irrigate nearby fields to have a second life in supporting thousands of acres of critical wetland habitat.
“We all need to work together to find creative ways to make the most of our limited water supply in drought conditions,” said Bill Walker, president of the Klamath Drainage District. “This is a leading example of cooperation between multiple stakeholder groups across state lines that allows farmers to put food on American families’ tables while protecting an important ecological resource.”
The Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, on the border of southern Oregon and northeastern California, is one of the most important wetland complexes for waterfowl and wetland-associated birds in North America. In recent years, the refuge has been forced to share a reduced water supply with farmers and endangered fish due to worsening drought conditions.
As water levels decline far below historical averages, migrating birds are exposed to predators and increased risk of disease, such as avian botulism. This project is critical in securing what may be the only water that the refuge will receive this year. It has helped to limit impacts in a drought year when every drop of water counts.
Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 15 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.