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Flooding Fields to Help Shorebirds

Cathy Duchamp
12/29/2006

"Farming for Wildlife." That's the catch phrase to describe a new shorebird conservation program underway in Washington's Skagit County. As correspondent Cathy Duchamp reports, the drive to "go organic" helped seal the deal.

TRANSCRIPT

THE FIELDS OF THE SKAGIT VALLEY THAT NOW GROW TULIPS AND RED POTATOES USED TO BE INTER-TIDAL WETLANDS—KEY PIT STOPS FOR MIGRATING SHOREBIRDS. AREA FARMERS HAVE RESISTED SUGGESTIONS THAT THEY FLOOD THEIR FIELDS TO HELP DWINDLING BIRD POPULATIONS. UNTIL NOW.

MORSE: "I basically said here's what we'd like to do. How can we do it within your farming rotations and farming economies."

KEVIN MORSE WITH THE NATURE CONSERVANCY BROKERED THE 'FARMING FOR WILDLIFE' DEAL WITH THREE FARMERS. THEY AGREED TO STOP GROWING CROPS ON MORE THAN 200 ACRES, FOR THREE YEARS. THE CLINCHER IS THAT ALL THREE FARMERS PLAN TO GO ORGANIC. SO, SAYS MORSE, THE CARROT OF 350-THOUSAND DOLLARS IN CASH PAYMENTS MADE IT RISK-FREE PROPOSITION.

MORSE: "Usually when they transition to organic it's a three year time period, and as they describe it they usually go backwards, which means they loose money because they're having to manage the land in a certain way that's more costly, or they can't get the premium for the crop yet, so they're very excited to see how this turns out."

A SIMILAR PROJECT IS UNDERWAY IN THE KLAMATH REGION OF CALIFORNIA. I'M CATHY DUCHAMP REPORTING.

© Copyright 2006, KUOW

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