From Farms to Wetlands,
A partnership with
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
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
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
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
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.