Images of the Miller Island WRE site, from April (left) and June 2022 (right). Both photos were taken after the topography features were completed, but prior to application of irrigation water, so the water pictured is from precipitation and potentially groundwater influence. Photos courtesy Ariel Snyder, NRCS.
Dustin Taylor, the Private Lands Biologist for the Klamath Basin NWR Complex, said that the goal of the restoration project was to bring back the riparian-adjacent wetland characteristics of the parcel. With wetlands disappearing rapidly across the Pacific Flyway, this is especially important. Taylor also said that ODFW’s outstanding track record of managing wetland habitat means the Miller Island project is set up for success.
“It’s ultimately going to be a really productive semi-permanent wetland,” he said. “This project supports the birds in the Flyway and provides some resiliency to the habitat we can provide in the Basin.”
Although restoration work is a typical part of the WRE program, Snyder said that the easement on Miller Island is otherwise unique. Most WREs are held by private landowners, meaning the wetland habitat they support is inaccessible to the public. Because ODFW holds this easement, public hunters and recreators are able to reap the full benefits of the wetland’s conservation. Josh Schmucker, the Klamath Wildlife Area Manager for ODFW, said that this access is especially poignant due to the parcel being obtained with funding from Oregon waterfowl stamp dollars.
“Oregonians who purchased bird stamps can now come out and hunt on this property that they essentially bought with their dollars,” Schmucker said. “That is a really, really cool aspect of this project.”
Ed Contreras, the IWJV’s Southern Oregon Northeastern California Conservation Delivery Coordinator, said that this is especially important for both birds and people as semi-permanent wetlands are in steep decline throughout the Pacific Flyway.
“In a year sportsmen and women can’t hunt Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges because of habitat loss, the improved WRE unit on Miller Island is providing a new publicly accessible wetland,” he said. “Projects like this provide hope for restoring wetlands and waterbird habitat in the Upper Klamath Basin.”