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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

BEAR VALLEY NWR: Water for Wildlife and Wildfire Protection

Region 8, August 24, 2011

By Miriam Morrill, Region 8 Fire Management Program

Firefighters, wildlife biologists and hunters came together last week to install a 1,800 gallon water tank at the Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge), near Klamath Falls, Oregon. The collaborative project created a water source that benefits both wildlife and wildland firefighters. The Oregon Mule Deer Foundation (OMDF), Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODF&W) and U.S. Fish & Wildfire Service (FWS) shared in the cost of materials and staff to install the tank and wildlife drinker as part of a mule deer and habitat strategy across Federal, state and private lands.


The tank collects and stores rain water and snow melt during the wetter seasons then provides a water source during the dry summer months when natural running water is limited. Deer and other wildlife can now access water from a bathtub style drinker, while firefighters have a source to fill their engines when additional water is needed during wildfire operations.

Greg Zoppetti, Assistant Fire Management Officer, from the FWS Klamath Fire Management Zone had been searching for options to increase firefighting capabilities on the refuge. The Refuge consists of 4,200 acres of old growth ponderosa pine, incense cedar and other mixed conifer trees. The fire program has done great work to reduce hazardous vegetation levels through mechanical thinning and prescribed fire. However, with limited vehicle access and few water supplies to protect adjacent homes from wildfire, additional options had to be considered. Greg, with the help of his partners, created a water source that offers wildlife benefits while contributing to fire suppression, a true “win-win” situation..

Ken Hand, with the OMDF provided the water tank, Tom Collom, with the ODF&W provided the water drinker and Greg and his crew provided supplies and equipment. Everyone jumped in to help with installation and new friendships have been forged.

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov