Date: 5/27/19 5:21 am
From: Joseph Neal <joeneal...>
Subject: “MOFFETT NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE”
Moffett, Oklahoma, immediately across the Garrison Avenue Bridge from Fort Smith, Arkansas, is largely under floodwaters of the Arkansas River. Check out this photograph by freelance photographer Austin Collins of Fort Smith, taken over Moffett on May 26 and posted on his facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/freelancebyac/photos/pcb.330426364313968/330425887647349/?type=3&theater .

When we were working on the book that became Arkansas Birds (published 1986), there was debate about whether or not we should include in a book about Arkansas records of shorebirds migrating through Moffett, technically (and barely!) in Oklahoma. Fortunately, we included. They were almost ALL by birders from Fort Smith who had for many decades obtained what were at that time the best records of shorebirds moving through our region. I was thinking about this after a message and an Austin Collins photo sent me by one of the Fort Smith birders, Sandy Berger. I am no expert on climate, or climate change, but I've read enough about warming to realize it may lead to more weather patterns like this and hence floods. If this is so, it could be that protection of farmland and infrastructure elsewhere in the Arkansas valley may now require MORE ability to relieve flooding. So, for example, protection of levee/wall system in Fort Smith-Van Buren region may require Moffett flooding on a more regular basis.

When I was growing up, we drove across the old bridge between Fort Smith and Van Buren. My dad often mentioned the great flood during WW 2 that prompted construction of the existing levee/flood wall system. The new reality of a warming climate may mean we must do MORE, and now. Maybe Moffett could become the latest Holla Bend NWR. This would make a lot of sense in terms of resource allocation. After this year of flooding and destruction, many at Moffett might be WILLING sellers. Farmers could still lease back land like they do now in NWRs. A disaster like this could lead in a good public policy direction for hunting, farming, flood protection, and yes, bird watching. I'm not making light of what a disaster this is for those losing everything, but some good could come of it.

I vote for Moffett National Wildlife Refuge. I vote for allowing a land that flooded for eons to flood again, but now in a deliberate manner that could provide for the needs of many. This could be the sort of “bipartisan” legislation that serves interests of “liberals” and “conservatives,” and in the case of migrating birds and birders, restores Moffett bottoms to the great habitat that exited up to a few decades ago.


 
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