In college I was introduced to Aldo Leopold and his work, Sand County Almanac. In those pages I found a kindred spirit, a man who valued his environment as much I valued mine. Since that time, I have attempted to live by and guide others to live by his famous quote; “When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to see it with love and respect.” I’ve found that living by this guideline is often difficult and can make me unpopular, but I continue to persevere because all to often the land has no voice.
The Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge and I have a history. In high school I did a term paper on my grandfather who worked on the dam, as part of the Works Project Administration. I learned that my grandfather, who suffered from polio as a child and walked with a terrible limp for the rest of his life, pulled weeds and laid rocks on the dam’s face, during the Great Depression.
When my children were tiny and suffered from colic, I used to bundle them in warm clothes, deposit them securely in the back seat, roll down the window a hair, and drive them around the backside of the lake. The winding road, fresh country air, and the sights and sounds of the wildlife soothed us all.
DFNWR is closest place in Canyon County to swim, fish and boat. It is also an awesome place to bird watch. I also love the educational and recreational opportunities it offers, but those recreational opportunities may be changing soon.
Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge (DFNWR) is one on the oldest refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System. President Theodore Roosevelt created DFNWR in 1909. The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge system is, “To administer a national network of land and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats with in the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.” President Roosevelt recognized that the lake would provide an oasis for migrating birds.
Today, the refuge is evaluating the “management” of the refuge and developing a “Comprehensive Conservation Plan” that “will guide Refuge management and public use for the next 15 years.” What is at stake for the public is the possible loss of motorized boating at the refuge, as well as other recreational opportunities.
The National Wildlife Refuge System places a high value on six recreational opportunities; wildlife watching and photography, hunting, fishing, and environmental education. Any use outside of those six are deemed non-priority, and could face elimination by refuge managers.
Knowing the intended purpose of the lake, the refuge system’s mission, and the historical use of the area make this a complicated issue. All the sides seem diametrical opposed, but I believe that all sides could compromise and come up with a winning plan, just as we did with The Owyhee County Initiative.
My solution to this problem is as follows;
1. Respect the intended purpose of the lake – to provide habitat for migrating birds. Lake Lowell consists of more than 28 miles of shoreline, and covers more than 9,000 acres when full. From my almost forty years of observations, the birds rest near the shoreline, so protect those critical areas and create more “no wake zones.” Or, perhaps close one end of the lake to boats entirely to service the needs of the wildlife.
2. Respect the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System – to conserve and manage the area. The area has suffered in the last few years from development and is in need of future protection. The refuge system was created to protect these areas and residents need to acknowledge that this is their sole goal. They are not villains.
3. The refuge system must respect the community to which they belong. Many people have generational ties to the lake, just like mine. While these generational ties do not give me (or anyone else) ownership, they should be respected. The community voice should not be ignored.
The example of Warm Lake in Cascade leaps to my mind. At Warm Lake, power-boating is restricted to the hours of 11:00 am until 6:00 pm. The rest of the day is a “no wake zone.” This protects the needs of the local wildlife, who come to the shore at dawn and dusk, while still allowing boaters access the rest of the time. It seems to have worked splendidly, moose and elk are regular visitors to the shore, and osprey are abundant over the water.
A similar agreement could be established for our lake. A good compromise requires that all sides give a little. No one should walk away completely satisfied. For the refuge, that would mean allowing boating to continue on a more restricted basis, which would recognize the important financial and social connections to the community. For the community, that would mean recognizing the lake as a wildlife refuge, and abiding by reasonable guidelines that protect it as such.
I respect both sides of the fence, and I expect that others do too. I don’t know of a single individual who uses the lake for recreation, who would wish it bare and devoid of animal life. The wildlife is part of its charm. Conversely, the lake is enormous and without boats, much of the wildlife living on or around the lake would be inaccessible to the average person, thus diminishing the capability of the refuge to complete its own goals of wildlife photography, watching, and environmental education. Lake Lowell and the refuge undoubtedly need protection and management but it also needs its community behind it to prosper. Lake Lowell is huge. There is room for compromise.
Save Lake Lowell is a local group dedicated to preserving the recreational opportunities at the lake, as is.
I encourage everyone who has an opinion to record it on the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge website, firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to my Idaho adventure blog!
Hi, my name is Chelle. I am a recent B.S.U. graduate and a lifelong Idaho resident. I have three loves in my life - my family, my writing, and my Idaho. The purpose of this blog is to share my extensive and intimate knowledge of Idaho with you, through my writing. As a woman with a family and a tight budget, I am often forced to make memories for pennies, and I want to take you along for the ride. The adventures I post will, almost always, focus on places or activities that are inexpensive and appropriate for children, without being a snore for adults. Some of the activities I write about are camping, fishing, rock hunting, history, environmental news, hot springs, hunting...Basically, anything Idaho.