Oregon SONEC Working Wet Meadows Initiative, Business Plan

The wetlands of Southern Oregon-Northeastern California (SONEC) comprise some of the most important spring and fall staging habitat for waterfowl in North America, supporting over 70% of the Pacific Flyway’s dabbling ducks and 30% of the continent’s northern pintails during spring migration. Managed marshes on refuges and wildlife areas have long received the majority of the attention due to their high value to migratory birds, but recent research and conservation planning has shed light on an important fact:  traditional ranching practices such as flood-irrigation, haying, and grazing provide critical habitat for spring staging waterfowl, and these must continue if SONEC is to remain a wetland bird mecca. This fits with a new resource conservation paradigm that is sweeping the West. Natural resource agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), foundations, land trusts, and watershed organizations have increasingly embraced the notion that what’s good for ranching is often also good for wildlife. Working ranchlands serve as an anchor for iconic wildlife species, such as greater sage grouse, mule deer, pronghorn and a host of migratory birds. In a nutshell, Pacific Flyway waterfowl and other waterbirds are highly dependent upon the SONEC ranchers who use flood-irrigation to raise grass and hay for cattle.