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Harney Basin Wetlands Initiative

Working Together

The Harney Basin Wetlands Initiative was formed in 2011, as a collaborative to find ways to improve the aquatic health and sustainability of Malheur Lake, and the wild flood-irrigated wet meadows across the Harney Basin. This effort is led by a diverse group of stakeholders, including local ranchers, conservation organizations, the Sovereign Nation of the Burns Paiute Tribe, government agencies, technical experts, scientists, area residents, nonprofit partners, and others who share a love and concern for the Harney Basin.

Malheur Lake Vital Habitat

Every year, millions of birds use the Harney Basin as a rest stop on their migratory journeys, both northbound and southbound, on what is called the Pacific Flyway. Considered one of the most significant sites in North America, birds come to rest and refuel, using both land and water in all parts of the basin, with large concentrations converging on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (Malheur NWR) which encompasses Malheur Lake within its boundaries.

Malheur Lake at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge at sunrise. Photograph by Jeremy Hill.

Private Lands Vital Habitat Too

Birds and other wildlife don't necessarily recognize fencing or other human distinctions that define private versus public lands. Harney Basin wetlands provide diverse habitat and water resources in an otherwise arid landscape—which includes thousands of acres of private ranch lands—making it possible for birds to reach their final destinations in good physical condition and ensure robust and resilient populations.

A lone swan in a flood irrigated wet meadow. Photo by local rancher and avid photographer Susan Doverspike.

For Both Malheur Lake and Private Ranch Lands

HBWI seeks to revitalize Malheur Lake and ensure private ranch lands surrounding the the refuge continue to function as wet meadows every spring, so birds have this important Pacific Flyway hub. While stewardship of public and private lands provide important habitat for birds and other wildlife species, it also directly benefits the local economy, supporting working ranches and maintaining the region’s vibrant bird-watching tourism.

More about the Harney Basin Wetlands Initiative >>