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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will not ask for water for Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

The Hutchinson News | Alice Mannette

DENVER — The Big Bend Groundwater Management District No. 5, the local community surrounding Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified voluntary solutions to remedy water impairment at Quivira. Because of these efforts, in addition to the help of U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not intend to submit a request to secure water for Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

“The Trump Administration has prioritized working families and communities, as well as conservation of species and their habitats," USFWS director Aurelia Skipwith said in a release. "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to working alongside our Quivira National Wildlife Refuge neighbors to try to find a commonsense solution that is equitable to us all in utilizing and conserving such a vital resource as water. Through partnership and leveraging new technologies, we are excited to use the best available science to inform a balanced approach to water distribution.”

For more than six decades, the congressionally designated refuge has protected more than 22,000 acres of unique and rare inland salt marsh and sand prairie habitats that are vital to more than 300 species of birds, some threatened and endangered, in the Central Flyway. The Big and Little Salt marshes attract thousands of migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and wetland birds, providing them with food, water, shelter and a place to rest.

In 2016, the Kansas chief engineer found the refuge’s senior state water rights along Rattlesnake Creek were being significantly infringed upon by junior water right holders. In July 2020, the service and district establishing a framework for water conservation.

Moran’s water management discussions led to the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between the Service and the district this summer in Saint John.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to not request to secure water in 2021 for Quivira National Wildlife Refuge demonstrates their continued commitment to work towards fulfilling the water needs of both the refuge and local producers,” Moran said in a release. “Through a grant secured earlier this month for watershed planning at Rattlesnake Creek and the partnership of Director Skipwith, we are on track to establish long-term solutions that will support the refuge, Kansas producers and the regional economy.”