Wetands: Gems of the West

Wetlands of the West are a rare but highly valued landscape for both people and wildlife. They provide important ecosystem services such as clean water, groundwater recharge, and essential habitat for fish and wildlife. As is common in the Intermountain West, most of the wet areas are privately owned. For example, in the Southern Oregon and Northeastern California (SONEC) region, nearly ¾ of all freshwater emergent wetlands are privately owned.

In much of the SONEC region, ranchers are to thank for maintaining working wet meadows through their flood irrigation management practices in spring and early summer. Flood irrigation enhances their hay and pasture production to meet ranching objectives and it mimics historic floodplain function, providing groundwater recharge and habitat diversity. Because of these rich wetland resources, the SONEC region serves as a crucial bird migration hub between wintering areas and breeding grounds.

Keeping these working wet meadows intact and in production is crucial for agricultural productivity and wildlife habitat. A combination of short- and long-term voluntary, private lands conservation programs provide financial and technical assistance to landowners interested in enhancing, restoring, managing, and conserving privately owned working lands. To learn more about the conservation programs and partnerships in the SONEC region, see the below Southern Oregon-Northeastern California Working Wet Meadows Initiative fact sheet.