Farmers, activists end land standoff

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
27 December 2006, at 12:00am

WASHINGTON - The standoff here between farmers and environmentalists was familiar.

As salmon and wildlife dwindled in the Skagit River Delta, some environmentalists have argued since the 1980s that farms should be turned back into wetlands. Farmers feared that preachy outsiders would strip them of their land and heritage.

This year, the standoff ended - at least for three longtime farmers in this fertile valley, who began collaborating with their former enemies to preserve wildlife and their livelihoods.

The Nature Conservancy, which usually buys land to shield it from development, is instead renting land from the farmers on behalf of migrating Western sandpipers, black-bellied plovers and other shorebirds.

From private and public funds, including a grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the farmers, David Hedlin, Gail Thulen and Alan Mesman, will together receive up to $350,000 for three years of labor, expenses and the use of 210 acres, said Kevin Morse, the Nature Conservancy's project manager.

Each man has committed about 70 acres to this project, called ''Farming for Wildlife.'' A third of that land will be flooded with a few inches of water in the spring, fall and winter.

Source: The New York Times