Can we restore the Refuges?
These two national wildlife refuges were once Crown Jewels of the refuge system in the U.S. Today they are mostly dry wastelands with the last of their water scheduled to be removed later this year. For decades, millions of migrating Pacific Flyway birds rested, fed and nested on their journeys. Now a drastically reduced number of birds that come through either can't find water and feed, much less places to rest and build nests....and often die from botulism from the shallow waters that are left.
It is an environmental and national tragedy which breaks the hearts of all of us who love Klamath Basin birds.
Remember when the refuges were full of life?
Photos from past January's and Februarys
Look at them now.....
Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge
The reasons are complex. The solutions are not going to be easy.
Climate change plus over allocation of resources since the first of the last century has changed the amount of water available
to all who live in the Klamath Basin...maybe forever. People are confused, sad, angry that life has changed so much....and worried sick,
not just about the birds, but their livelihoods. We understand.
When water was plentiful, priorities were set and laws were written that put the refuges at the bottom of the pecking order. No one ever dreamed that the results would be so devastating. Now there isn't enough water for anybody who lives here or the birds.
Tribes up and down the river are trying to save endangered fish, ranchers and farmers are trying to grow their crops and take
care of their animals, ocean fisherman want to save the salmon, ecosystems are no longer healthy, wetlands have been destroyed, and communities are struggling to manage all these incredibly difficult problems.
No one has a solution yet, but it is important to remember these are all ... ALL ... good people who didn't intend for any of this to happen.
Restoring the Lower Klamath and Tulelake Lake Wildlife Refuges is incredibly important and a moral imperative.
That said, the solutions need to work as much as possible for everyone.
We invite others to contribute their thoughts and fresh perspectives, too.
To read the special series by the Klamath Herald and News about the water crisis go here:
Project Klamath-Saving a watershed in the climate change era
To learn more about the photographer who is credited with getting the refuges designated, go here:
Historical Finley Documents:
Profits in Scenery and Wildlife
Conservation Work of the Finleys (by Ed F. Averill)
Birds Cannot Live Without Homes
Ring-necked Pheasant - Canny Bird of the Season (by Irene Finley)
To see a beautiful visual presentation on the history of the refuges, go here:
Wetlands, Waterbirds, and Water
A March 11, 2022 Audubon Society Article about the refuges:
The Klamath Basin’s Water Crisis Is a Growing Disaster for Waterfowl