Taking Liberties: Birds Vs. Boaters

The federal government is trying to stop David Ferdinand from doing what he’s been doing his whole life -- boating on Lake Lowell in Central Idaho.

“They’re trying, but it’s not going to happen,” said Ferdinand recently as he walked on the pier at the lake’s East boat launch.

“We’re going to fight them tooth and nail.”

At issue is a federal mandate from 1997 for management plans of wildlife refuges across the country.

Lake Lowell is part of the Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge and is subject to the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act, which requires every national refuge in the United States to prioritize the protection of wildlife.

The main focus at Lake Lowell is the Grebe, a white and black waterfowl that lays its eggs at the lake’s shores.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now considering limiting the use of boaters on Lake Lowell in order to protect those nesting areas.

“That is our priority,” explained Addison Mohler, a marine biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Lake Lowell. “That’s what we have been mandated to do.”

“Boats and wildlife,” he explained, “sometimes have serious conflicts.”

The Grebe is now the most-hated bird in Nampa Idaho.

“Did someone say Grebe stew?” joked a water-skier to Ferdinand as he walked past on the dock.

“We are essentially a boating community,” said Ferdinand. “They can’t take that from us.”

Ferdinand points out the Grebe isn’t even an endangered species. “There are a lot of people who don't believe they are even indigenous to this area,” he said.

In fact, Lake Lowell isn’t even a natural lake. It’s a man-made reservoir created by Idaho’s pioneers in the early 1900’s to irrigate their crops.

“We've got some people who are mad at us,” acknowledges Mohler, but he says his “hands are tied.” He says he has to obey the priorities of the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act.

"The process is mandated by congress. It has to be done."

He points out the lake is a “national” refuge.

“People who don't even live here have a say in what kind of management practices happen here.

This is part of a system.”

And that’s exactly what makes Ferdinand so mad. He says the federal government’s attitude is “shameful.”

“We're going to tell you can't have fishing, you can’t have swimming, you can't have boating,” he says of the Feds.

“Well I say not here, not in Idaho and not in Nampa”

And he may have a point. Since Lake Lowell was built for irrigation, the community still has control over the water, which Ferdinand says could give Nampa control over the water’s management.

“It’s going to be a fight,” he said. “And we’re ready for it.”