Milkvetch Survey and Refuge Work

This month we had a break from the suckers and helped do a survey for Applegate’s milkvetch for a week. Applegate’s milkvetch is a plant in the pea family that grows low to the ground. It is listed as endangered and there are only nine known populations in Klamath County. The largest of those locations is the Klamath Falls Airport. The airport is looking to build a new taxiway, so the plants that will be in the construction zone were completely censused and flagged. The flagging was so that seeds can later be collected and also so that plants that are in the construction imprint can potentially be avoided. We also did random belt transects throughout the entire airport so that ten percent of the total acreage was surveyed. To census the construction zone we would walk in a line and just flag all of the plants we could see. This was much more difficult than it sounds because milkvetch grows very low to the ground with small flowers. There were also a couple of look a likes growing on the airport, which complicated things.

Flagging Milkvetch

Flagging Milkcetch

Applegate's Milkvetch

Applegate’s Milkvetch


Working at an airport takes a lot of coordination.  While there are no longer commercial flights, there is a military operation still in Klamath. That meant a lot of safety concerns and a lot of coordination. For a lot of the project we had to be with airport employees, who had radios and could communicate with air and ground control.

The milkvetch project gave us a nice introduction to the Endangered Species Act and the role of Fish and Wildlife Service. The project on the airport was done partly with federal money and had to be signed off by a federal entity, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). For these two reasons the airport was required to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service about the endangered species occurring on their airport. The FWS had to determine if the project would cause jeopardy for the species.  While jeopardy was not found, the FWS still put stipulations on the airport’s development. They required a full census of the construction area and seed collections. In addition the rest of the airport was sampled randomly. We completed the construction project but will be working on the inventory of the airport next week.

The other focus this month was the ponds at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. I have been going down to monitor the ponds before we put any fish in them. We have been setting traps in the various ponds baited with cat food to try and see if we can catch anything.  So far, no fish, which is good.  The two smaller ponds should not have fish, so we are glad to see that no fish were brought in with the water supply. The larger pond, however, does have fish, so it’s a little confusing that we haven’t found any. We also have been looking for evidence of mammalian predators around the ponds. So far we have found evidence of both otters and raccoons. The next phase of the project involves designing artificial structure. Structure is really important for young fish, as it provides protection from predators and numerous other functions; because of the time frame it’s not possible to do things like plant native plants. We are going to add aquarium plants and decorative rocks attached to tiles to the ponds to provide structure. I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks coming up with arrangement of artificial plants for the ponds, stay tuned!

Ponds at LKNWR

Ponds at LKNWR

Baited Minnow Traps

Baited Minnow Traps


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