Flooding farm fields helping birds and farmers

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    From the Nature Conservancy – info on what seems a worthwhile project:

    at The Nature Conservancy’s Farming for Wildlife project in the Skagit River Delta. Here, the Conservancy works with farmers to flood parts of their fields with fresh water, creating new or improved habitat for shorebirds, while at the same time improving the soil.

    And this spring, the shorebirds took advantage of this new habitat—as they have in springs before. They arrived by the hundreds to stop and feed in the flooded fields, fueling up for the rest of their journey north to their breeding grounds in the Arctic.

    “The Skagit Delta is their historic habitat, but much of their wetland habitat here has been lost,” said Kevin Morse, North Puget Sound Program director. “So the flooded fields stick out amid all of the farmlands. It’s exciting to see that the shorebirds show up on the flooded farms.”

    The Conservancy launched this project in 2006 in cooperation with multiple partners, including Washington State University. Participating farmers reap benefits as well. They’re compensated for their time and expenses in the project. By covering their fields in 2 to 3 inches of water, farmers also hope to improve soil fertility and control plant diseases.

    In the Klamath Basin, wetland rotations were shown to increase yields by 25 percent and increase land lease rates by $200 an acre. Preliminary results in the Skagit Delta are promising.

    The hope is this model can be adopted in other parts of the country, to help protect wildlife while supporting local economies.

    “We’re working toward conservation programs that make sense for both wildlife and people,” Kevin Morse said.

    Flooded Fields Attract Migrating Shorebirds

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