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Farms, wildlife can coexist
Whidbey Audubons recent Farming for Wildlife presentation by Kevin Morse of the Nature Conservancy was very informative and encouraging.
Mr. Morse has been working with WSU, Western Washington Agricultural Association, Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and three farmers in the Skagit Delta area on a conservation program designed to facilitate farming practices while providing desperately needed shorebird habitat.
The program implements a rotation system of cultivated and flooded soils. The flooded 2-to-3 feet deep wetland provides shorebirds the habitat they need while simultaneously replenishing nutrients to the soil. There is no need for added nitrogen or chemicals. The soil is placed in an anaerobic state which naturally sterilizes it.
This practice was extremely successful in the Klamath area of Northern California. Yield on recultivated flooded areas was phenomenal. Conditions in the Skagit will be analyzed for site specifics with practices tailored to fit. The Conservancy is providing farm funding during this experimental stage. Once the system is streamlined the farmers should be able to make profits on their land without the need for supplemental funding. However incentives and tax breaks will remain available to farmers exercising conservation practices.
We all stand to gain by maintaining our precious food producing agricultural land in our own county, particularly in own back yard. If we can keep our waters clean, restore salmon and keep our shores flourishing with wildlife, then we and our grandchildren win.
It was encouraging to see such a broad spectrum of citizens interested in both the preservation of farms and wildlife for a sustainable future.
Special thanks to John Dean, Island County commissioner, and Val Hillars, Island County Planning Commission, for their attendance and concern for the preservation of our Northwest region.
Swan Lake Watershed Preservation Group