Bear River bird refuge benefits from drought

Posted at 5:29 PM, Jul 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-13 00:04:31-04

WILLARD, Box Elder County, Utah - While Utah's drought is bad for most of the state, it has helped the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Minimal snowpack in the last two years has impacted the level of the river and the refuge's ability to hold water, and fish in the river have died.

But that's good news for the birds in refuge, because the carp can destroy the river's vegetation and the dead fish provided a good meal for other animals in the area.

The drought has also provided an opportunity to get rid of fragmites, an invasive weed. Crews are using cattle grazing as a tool to get rid of the weed.

"It's a non-native grass that can grow up way over your head. It grows in these dense clusters that then crowd out other native vegetation," said wildlife biologist Howard Browers.

Knowing that the water level would be an issue, wildlife managers planned early and channeled water into the most important areas of the refuge to give the birds a habitat.

The refuge says that for now, they're staying positive, but that could change depending on how long the drought lasts.