Monday, April 11, 2016

Ranchers Create Ponds, Wetlands in Owyhee County

In the arid West, water is key to the survival of everything. That’s why early-day pioneers staked out the river bottoms when they settled the West. It was all about water. In recent years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has partnered with ranchers in Owyhee County to create more ponds and wetlands on private lands. “Initially, the project was focused on Columbia spotted frogs, which were a candidate species, but we recognized that many species would benefit from the creation of wetlands,” said Kristin Lohr, a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Idaho, in Boise. “These wetlands provide habitat for not just Columbia spotted frogs, but also other animals such as amphibians, birds, bats, deer and antelope,” Lohr said. “As we’re standing here, we see red-winged blackbirds in the cat-tails, and we heard a Pacific chorus frog calling from the edge of the wetland. So animals are already moving in and using these wetlands.” The Fish and Wildlife Service wants to create more habitat for birds and wildlife — that’s a key part of their mission. But Tom Biebighauser, a national authority on wetlands who taught a workshop in Owyhee County, said the projects can have a dual purpose. “The message he gave is we can do both. You can create some wildlife-friendly improvements on your property, and at the same time, make an improvement for your operation,” says John Romero, co-owner of the ZX Ranch with his wife, Cathy, and the Richards family. Owyhee County Rancher Chris Black dug a series of ponds in two different locations to create meadow habitat for wildlife and cattle. “I wanted to create the meadow habitat because water is so scarce in the West, and water is critical to life,” Black said. “So if I can create a meadow habitat, I can create a place for sage grouse to come in, pronghorn to come in, all wildlife to use, plus my cows have a habitat they can use. So it’s good for everything in the system.”...more

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