The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service is exploring a proposal to
add the Barnes Ranch and perhaps the Agency
Lake Ranch to the Upper Klamath National
Under two proposed additions, the Fish and
Wildlife Service would purchase the 2,671-acre
Barnes Ranch, which is in private ownership,
and either cooperatively manage the 7,125-acre
Agency Lake Ranch with the Bureau of
Reclamation, or acquire the Agency Lake
The refuge currently
includes almost 15,000 acres of mostly
freshwater marsh and open water on Upper
Klamath Lake, including habitat for endangered
Lost River and shortnose suckers, and a
variety of resident and migratory birds.
Fish and Wildlife Service officials say the
refuge additions would increase water storage
in the Upper Klamath Basin, and improve fish
and wildlife habitat.
"It's an opportunity to do good things for
endangered fish, wildlife and those who need
water," said Ron Cole, Klamath National
Wildlife Refuge Complex manager. "It's good
from a wildlife, water quality and water
"We're going to take
public comment and see what everybody thinks,"
said Richard Smith, natural resource
specialist for the Fish and Wildlife Service's
Smith said the preferred option is acquiring
both the Barnes and Agency Lake ranches. But
alternatives include buying the Barnes Ranch
and cooperatively managing the Agency Lake
Ranch with the Bureau, or taking no action at
Federal acquisition of the privately owned
Barnes Ranch has been discussed since 2000.
Early efforts were thwarted because of
differences between the proposed sales price
and government appraisals. President Bush's
proposed 2006 budget includes $6 million for
buying the property.
"They must feel fairly confident negotiations
are moving along," Cole said.
"It's a high priority
for the Service and the Bush Administration,"
said Alexandra Pitts, a Fish and Wildlife
Service spokeswoman in Sacramento.
If Congress does not provide funding through
the president's budget, Pitts said, money for
the Barnes property would have to be a
"several year process ... Whether it gets
funded (in the president's 2006 budget) or
not, we're planning for it."
By acquiring both ranches, Smith said, the
service could take steps to increase water
storage during wet years. The Agency Lake
Ranch cannot be flooded without also flooding
the Barnes property.
Restoration work would
probably begin by breaching levees holding
back Agency Lake, allowing both properties to
flood to Agency Lake's current level. Based on
studies, when restoration begins, the two
ranches would provide increased storage
capacity for Agency Lake.
"Habitat restoration actions would benefit
sensitive species that use the lake, and the
Klamath Project by providing additional water
for irrigating croplands," a Fish and Wildlife
Service planning update says.
"Future restoration of
wetland habitats on the Barnes and Agency Lake
properties would provide natural water
filtration, which would reduce the algal
blooms that lower oxygen in the lake to levels
that can be lethal to fish," the update report
says. "Restoring these properties to lake and
emergency wetlands would reestablish the vital
role that the marshes serve in filtering
nutrients and providing essential habitat for
larval and juvenile suckers."
"We think we can do thing will help wildlife,
including suckers, for very little expense,"
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