In an unusual victory for both property rights and wildlife, the Nature Conservancy has entered into a unique arrangement with three Skagit County, Washington farmers to rent and flood 210 acres of cropland on behalf of migrating waterfowl.
"From private and public funds, including a grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, three farmers will together receive up to $350,000 for three years of labor, expenses and the use of 210 acres, said Kevin Morse, the Skagit Delta project manager for the conservancy in Washington state.
Each man has committed about 70 acres to this project, which is called Farming for Wildlife. A third of that land will be flooded with a few inches of fresh water in the spring, fall and winter. This will create shallow ponds to entice thousands of birds, some of them on their way to and from the Arctic, to stop and snack on tiny invertebrates and worms as they travel along the Pacific flyway.
The farmers see the Nature Conservancy's willingness to pay them as an acknowledgment that they should not be expected to sacrifice their land or their living for wildlife. This approach effectively turns shorebirds into another crop to manage, instead of grounds for a lawsuit."