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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Drought part of the natural cycle at Quivira

BY BECCY TANNER
The Wichita Eagle

The irony of a drought is that some will prosper while others suffer.

It is a good year for vultures, for example.

At Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Stafford County, the land around the Big Salt Marsh, which a month ago held water, is now dry and cracked. Fish carcasses lie scattered about.

"We look at it as a natural cycle,'' said Steve Karel, deputy refuge manager. "It is the way the marsh has survived for thousands of years.

"If we were all the time putting water in, we would not be allowing the cycles to operate like they are supposed to."

When the water level drops, the winds scour the silt away, "saving a ton of money if we had to do it with mechanical means," Karel said. "But it needs to be done to make everything healthier."

Carp — an invasive species — are dying.

Turtles and frogs will move into little pockets where there is water.

Fixing drains and culverts, which would have required draining the marshes, can now be done with little effort.

Plants such as smart weed — the kind ducks and other waterfowl will feed on this fall — will begin to grow in the dry marshland.

And, when the rains and waters from the Rattlesnake Creek — which feeds Quivira — come again, it will create good habitat.

"Drought is part of the natural cycle," Karel said.

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