For disabled military veterans who used to be sportsmen but thought they no longer had the same access to the great outdoors, the 2,000-acre Barker Ranch in West Richland, Wash., provides the opportunity to rekindle that experience.
Key figures in this mission are Michael Crowder, Barker Ranch general manager and wildlife enthusiast; Micah Clark, executive director and founder of the nonprofit organization Camp Patriot, which arranges outdoor sporting activities for disabled veterans; and Jerry Bartlett, a retired three-star Army general and Barker Ranch shareholder.
For more than four years now, Barker Ranch has annually donated a duck hunt to Camp Patriot, which provides all the gear, licensing fees and lodging for the group through donations.
Camp Patriot’s motto is “Giving back to those who have given.” Their mission is to take disabled U.S. veterans on outdoor adventures.
But their partnership with Barker Ranch wouldn’t be possible if the ranch had been left the way it had been found by its current owners. Historically, the wetlands on the property were destroyed to make way for cropping, grazing and other agricultural practices. When the current owners took over, they were determined to avoid further damaging the land.
To restore the nearly eight miles of wetlands on the ranch, Bartlett worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), as well as Ducks Unlimited and many state and federal agencies to set up a series of Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easements on the land.
WRP assists landowners in the restoration, creation, protection and enhancement of natural wetlands on their property.
Everything done on the ranch is for the sake of conservation, Bartlett says. Dikes and water control structures were used to restore the wetlands, approximately 150 wood duck boxes were placed on the land for nesting habitat and the only irrigated crops are there for the waterfowl to feed on.
“It’s a lot of work—more hours than I would like sometimes. But the work is self-rewarding; you don’t have to have someone tell you you’ve done a good job when you pull up to a pond and see three different groups of wood duck broods. It’s neat to see them come back year after year,” Crowder says.
The property is managed for the benefit of waterfowl and other native wildlife, including ducks, geese, pheasants and mule deer, which, as it turns out, is also a benefit to longtime sportsmen.
Find out more about NRCS’ Wetlands Reserve Program.