Western innovator: Improvements welcome wildlife
Updated: Friday, November 16, 2012 12:30 PM
Farmer invests in enhancements to help deer, grouse numbers recover
By JOHN O'CONNELL
SODA SPRINGS, Idaho -- Through years of wildlife habitat improvements aided by government programs, Sid Cellan has made his Caribou County dryland farm a favorite place among the region's hunters.
Cellan, an avid sportsman himself, welcomes them on his property -- with the exception of the area surrounding Cellan Pond. That's his personal wildlife sanctuary.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game provided funding and an Eagle Scout project supplied labor when Cellan erected 17 goose-nesting boxes around the pond in the mid-1990s. Fish and Game still assists in replacing rocks and wood chips for nesting material in the boxes.
Cellan created the refuge at the suggestion of his father, Merle, who enjoyed watching the geese and thought they needed another safe haven close to Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
Cellan, Idaho Fish and Game's landowner of the year in 2010, also serves on a board that awards federal funding to area growers who vow not to harass sandhill cranes that feed on designated grain fields. He has 51 acres enrolled in the crane lure crop program.
Cellan has seen grouse populations grow on his land, and he believes farmers and ranchers can protect themselves from a potentially restrictive federal Endangered Species Act listing for sage grouse by being proactive in their management practices.
"I'm a sportsman. I'm trying to enhance (wildlife) to stay around," Cellan said. "We harvest our share of geese and ducks and also try to help them when times are tough for them. I think it's really important we as farmers and sportsmen all band together."
To address a steady decline he's noticed in big game numbers, he represents his county on the Fish and Game committee that oversees winter feeding of mule deer. He and his brother and nephew also replanted their Conservation Reserve Program ground with a mix better suited for big game in 1998. About a decade ago, Fish and Game helped him obtain funding for a watering device called a Guzzler -- a plastic trough designed to collect rainwater for wildlife -- which he placed on the CRP land. In dry summers, he keeps it filled.
"We were trying to enhance their habitat so they would have ample fat reserves in winter," said Cellan, who sometimes places cameras by the Guzzler to film wildlife. "I could take you out there in early morning and show you 50 to 60 deer."
Jason Beck, landowner sportsmen coordinator with Fish and Game, said about 40 landowners have installed Guzzlers in the area from Aberdeen to the Arco Desert. Guzzlers can help growers earn points toward some CRP contracts, and CRP will often share the cost of installing them, Beck said.
Most growers who install Guzzlers are seeking to lure big game away from their fields. Beck warns it's not a quick fix as it can take several years for animals to start using them as a water source.
Beck said Cellan is among a small but dedicated group of Idaho growers who have had a significant positive impact on wildlife through their practices.
"If you add them all together across the state, farmers are really helping a lot of wildlife," said Beck, who has assisted in Cellan's projects.
Family: Wife, Janet, and three daughters
Education: Soda Springs High School
Hometown: Soda Springs, Idaho
Quote: "We can try to be the best stewards of the land we can, but it always still comes down to Mother Nature."
Read 2011's Western innovators on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Western-Innovators-Profiles-agricultural-ebook/dp/B009NMO76O