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Farming for Wildlife: Creating a More Sustinable Future for Farmers and Wildlife

The Nature Conservancy

The Skagit Delta is a vibrant rural community – one of the last strongholds of family farming in Western Washington and a bread basket both regionally and nationally. At the same time, the delta is rich in wildlife. Though altered by human development, the delta con¬tinues to be a critical stopover site on the Pacific Flyway. More than 50,000 shorebirds touch down on the delta during fall and spring migrations. Here, the Conservancy is working with the farm community to develop voluntary, incentives-based conservation programs that make sense economically, benefit farmers, and create habitat for wildlife. Skagit Delta farmers are testing the concept of incorporating wetlands into their crop rotations to create vital habitat for shorebirds, and at the same time improve the health of the fields for farming. By sheet flooding their fields during critical migration periods, the farmers are hoping to create new or improved habitat for shorebirds such as western sandpipers, dunlin, dowitchers and yel¬lowlegs, while improving soil fertility and controlling plant diseases, thereby increasing crop productivity. In the Klamath Basin, farmers have discovered that wetland rotations have increased their yields by 25 percent and reduced costs by some $200 an acre because they no longer needed expensive soil fumigants. Additionally, the weed source was practically eliminated and they gained a premium price for their organic crops.