Coots need friends, too

April 29, 2003

By Steve Kandra

Merrill, Oregon

Published in the Herald and News

Klamath Falls, Oregon

To submit a Letter to the Editor:

Coots, the wily white bill, mud hens, Fulica americana: They scurry back and forth over the levee from field to canal like white on black silent movie "Keystone Kops," feet almost as large as their wings.

The coots have nibbled the edges of the alfalfa field, while thousands of migrating snow and white-fronted geese have grazed the rest of the 160-acre tract down to dirt. Tons of alfalfa have been reduced to great piles of green sticky "goose poop" -- payment for the farm's annual contribution to waterfowl migration and reproduction. Coots and geese hold little regard for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife signs stating "Entry Restricted," and my "No Trespassing" signs are merely landmarks for wildlife entry. The entire Klamath Basin is their buffet. The line between refuge, rancher and farmer does not exist in the eye of a hungry critter.

The irrigation canals and drains are full of mallards and cinnamon teal pairing up for their family's centennial anniversary for nesting in that reach. The honkers have already hatched hungry goslings in the field perimeters next to the water.

The mule deer and pronghorns will soon move into the cultivated fields to drop their fawns. They know the activity of man will provide sustenance and protect their young from predators no longer held in check by political correctness.

The Klamath Reclamation Project irrigation water delivery system and farms are major habitat components. Everywhere you look, you will see life -- hundreds of miles of seasonal wetlands for nesting shore birds, ducks and songbirds; thousands of acres of forage, insects, and worms for geese, ibises and curlews; every planted tree and power pole is a raptor roost or nesting site.

Self-proclaimed defenders of the environment claim "crop production wastes water," "wildlife over farmin,'' and "downsize the Klamath Project" -- ignorant pontifications at best, intentional bald-faced lies in fact.

While some may stand as blind advocates for salmon and suckers, sacrificing all others, I will champion the lowly coot and irrigate.