In Southern Oregon, the largest stretch of uninterrupted grasslands left on the Oregon and Washington coasts, dubbed “New River Bottoms,” hosts domestic sheep and cows, and also tens of thousands of Aleutian geese, which stop over in the area every spring. It’s a prime migration way station on their way to breeding grounds in Alaska — the last stop they make. Other species finding habitat on the grasslands include federally protected birds such as threatened snowy plovers and endangered California brown pelicans.
Ranchers using the land to graze their herds have considered themselves at odds with the geese, which chow down extensively on the lush grass. Now, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is studying the potential for designating nearly 6,000 acres of the land as a national refuge, by offering landowners compensation easements or outright purchase of their lands.
The Ashland Mail Tribune reports,
The proposal has generated concern among residents who believe there’s more to this than meets the eye. [Roy Lowe, manager of the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex] says he expects landowners to become more comfortable with the proposal when they look closer into it.
… The easements essentially would pay landowners for temporarily housing these geese.
“This would provide habitat where they’re welcomed,” Lowe says.
Rancher Rick McKenzie says he encourages such discussions.
“We have 50,000 geese during the spring these past few years, and they’ve cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars,” McKenzie says. “It would be good to come up with some agreement where the geese can live with us, and we can live with the geese.
“I’m all ears,” he says.