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Ron Cole: Lend your voice on Klamath's future

Redding Record Searchlight

Staff Reports

May 10, 2010

First impressions of the Klamath Basin have been carved into the minds and journals of many explorers and travelers throughout recorded history. In 1905, famed naturalist William Finley wrote as he gazed upon the vast wetlands of the Klamath Basin for the first time:

ďHere lay the land of my dreams. After nearly 20 years of waiting, I was looking out over this place of mystery that lay far beyond the southern rim of my home hills. ...Ē

My first impression of the Klamath Basin occurred during the early 1980s, as I drove east on Highway 161 along the California/Oregon border to begin a seasonal job at the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex. A sea of bulrush, cattail and water hugged the road to the south while fields of grain rippled in the breeze to the north. Ahead of me about one-half mile, I noticed that the paved highway was washed out. As I sped forward, I could see this was no ordinary washout. This was a waterfowl washout made up of thousands of ducks walking on the pavement, looking for grit. They moved in mass, slowly oozing like feathered syrup. When they lifted off, the air was filled with wings and orange feet. For a moment, I lost sight of the sky. What I heard over the sound of my idling engine was the roar of over 10,000 winged turbines lifting into space. What I had heard about the Klamath Basin was true. This indeed was a land of abundance and mystery.

Today, travelers along this same path can still enjoy the winged abundance found in the Klamath Basin when they visit the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges. There are six refuges in the Klamath Basin complex, which include Lower Klamath, Upper Klamath, Bear Valley, Clear Lake, Tule Lake and Klamath Marsh national wildlife refuges. Together, these federal wildlife refuges span over 200,000 acres of wetlands, shrub-steppe, old-growth forests and agricultural landscapes. Over 400 species of fish and wildlife can be found on the refuges. Waterfowl and other migratory birds are particularly dependent on the refuges for their sustained survival. About 80 percent of the migratory waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway pass through the Klamath Basin each spring and fall. So important are these refuges that in 1908, Lower Klamath national wildlife refuge became our nationís first National Wildlife Refuge established for waterfowl.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently starting a process to develop a long-range Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex. When completed, the CCP will guide all aspects of refuge management for the next 15 years. We welcome the public to attend a series of meetings to gather ideas and suggestions concerning the long-term management of these important landscapes. The publicís input is important and we want to hear your thoughts about the refuges and how you feel they can best serve our nationís wildlife.

For more information about the CCP process or for information about the scoping meetings and other ways to participate in the planning process for the Klamath Basin refuges, please contact Michelle Barry, comprehensive planner, at 667-2231 or visit our Web page at

Whether they are your first, or whether they are those you have accumulated over a lifetime, we invite you to share your impressions about these treasured landscapes. We hope to see you next week at our meeting on Wednesday at the Oxford Suites in Redding from 6 to 8 p.m.

Ron Cole is the manager of the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.


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