I found this article in the Capital Press Ag newspaper today,
NRCS may offer
flood irrigation program to aid bird
To maintain key
forage habitat for a wading bird, the Natural Resources Conservation Service
may soon discuss perks for certain eastern Idaho growers who flood irrigate.
would represent an about-face for the agency, which has long offered financial
incentives to encourage farmers to upgrade to water-efficient sprinkler
conducted this summer by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game suggests the
white-faced ibis relies heavily upon flood irrigation for feeding. Ibises seek
fly larvae and invertebrates in shallow water, said Rob Cavallaro, IDFG
regional wildlife biologist.
wash their prey. They prefer to clean them," Cavallaro said. "Another
reason is the superabundance of prey after a farmer floods a field. It becomes
like a bug soup."
studied by IDFG nest on floating mats of bulrush and cattails within the Mud
Lake Wildlife Management Area, located 40 miles west of Rexburg,
Idaho, and the Market Lake Wildlife Management
Area, which is 18 miles northwest of Idaho
explained the bird is not federally protected but is listed as an Idaho species of
greatest conservation need. He noted the two lakes were formerly surrounded by
vast tracts of shallow wetlands, which were mostly drained for agricultural
Chuck Trost has conducted counts of white-faced ibis in southeast Idaho.
"I know 10
years ago there were literally 50,000 of them feeding on the edge of American
Falls Reservoir. Now there are hundreds of them, but not 50,000," Trost
IDFG worked on
the study with staff from the Idaho Bird Observatory, a nongovernmental
organization that monitors and researches bird populations, and volunteers from
the Idaho Falls Master Naturalist Program. Participants drove routes around the
wildlife management areas, taking GPS recordings of ibis locations and noting
which types of agricultural lands they used. They overwhelmingly utilized flood-irrigated
fields, with a preference for alfalfa.
preliminary study results were released Dec. 20, and a final report is being
potential flood-irrigation incentives for willing landowners in those areas
could be offered through the farm bill or Soil and Water Conservation
Districts. Karen Fullen, state biologist with the NRCS, said her organization
could also be part of a flood-irrigation incentive program.
concerned about all wildlife species and wondering how to fit this in with
competing resource concerns like water and keeping water in the Snake River for fish and endangered species.
Mud Lake area grower David Burtenshaw still
flood irrigates a few plots of land he deems too small for pivots. He's never
heard of the white-faced ibis.
on the water board for a lot of years, and I've watched that whole country go
from flood to pivot. Now there are very few people flooding any more. Even
those guys who do are going to pivots," Burtenshaw said. "It's a
little more efficient, and it seems like year to year you can raise a better
-- Denise Hughes