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Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges

Information about the basin's diverse and vitally important National Wildlife Refuges.

UPDATES:

8.6.13  Oregon Wild's latest fact sheet addresses how the Klamath River Basin Adjudication affects wildlife in this drought year.

5.9.13  Wendell Wood issues a briefing paper on this year's impending water disaster in the Klamath Basin on behalf of Oregon Wild and WaterWatch of Oregon.

3.4.13  Oregon Wild joins with coalition partners, urges lawmakers to address "dire" water situation for birds and migrating waterfowl.

1.18.13  Oregon Wild issues white paper on water quality vs. water quantity for Upper Klamath and Agency lakes

Photo by Brett ColeThe Klamath Basin is home to six National Wildlife Refuges:  Klamath Marsh, Upper Klamath, Bear Valley, Clear Lake, Lower Klamath, and Tule Lake. 

See how the refuges have changed over the years.


Wildlife Refuges and Wetlands

One hundred and fifty years ago early settlers in the Klamath Basin were met by a vast expanse of 350,000 acres of wetlands, shallow lakes and marshes; they fished a roaring, salmon rich river winding through hundreds of miles of western countryside, and were amazed by the spectacular migrations of geese, eagles, and other birds.  

Lower Klamath Heron and EgretsHalf a century ago, during the peak of fall migration, over 7 million waterfowl and 1000 overwintering bald eagles could be found in the Klamath Basin at one time. 

Home to invaluable wildlife species and remarkable territory, the basin wetlands drew the attention of conservationists from across the nation, including President Theodore Roosevelt.  In 1908 President Roosevelt designated 81,000 acres of marsh and open water in Lower Klamath Lake as the first National Wildlife Refuge for waterfowl.  Twenty years later, Tule Lake joined the Refuge System when Franklin Roosevelt authorized the protection of 37,000 acres in what was Tule Lake. 

Unfortunately, their visionary actions to protect these fragile and important wetlands have been undermined by a century of mismanagement and abuse.  The US Bureau of Water discharging from KIPReclamation’s massive Klamath Irrigation Project, initiated in 1905, paved the way for extensive agricultural developmentthat destroyed thousands of acres of wetland, and drained much of what was Lower Klamath and Tule Lakes.  In recent decades, continued agricultural development, excessive water diversions, agricultural pollution, and drought have further damaged the remaining wetland habitat

Curious what the KBRA means for refuges?  Check out this long list of potentially harmful impacts. 

Interested in learning more?  Our Refuges in Peril allows you to explore the history of these vital wildlife area, and what can be done to preserve them.  (Adobe Acrobat reader required to view.)


More Refuge News:

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