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ODFW Proposes Turning Coquille Farmland Into Protected Wetlands

<p>A recent environmental study on wetlands has caused friction between neighbors &ndash; and anger about potential changes to land use.</p>

Courtesy of Oregon Fish and Wildlife Service/Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board

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A recent environmental study on wetlands has caused friction between neighbors – and anger about potential changes to land use.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will present its plan to restore and preserve fresh water wetlands for salmon and waterfowl at a public meeting Thursday.

The plan would protect, enhance and restore wildlife habitats, according to ODFW. The department would also build and maintain facilities on the land.

Stuart Love, a biologist with ODFW and manager of the Coquille Wildlife area, said the plan would help juvenile coho salmon make their way to sea.

"There's a time period when they aren't ready to go into the ocean yet," Love said. "And they need to be able to find places where they can get out of the heavy currents and spend the winter."

He said the proposed area would be open to the public and would provide education and recreation activities. The site would have bird watching, hunting and fishing. Love said that schools would be able to tour the property and learn about wetland enhancement and development.

Wetland restoration on the property has been an ongoing discussion in the county. In 2012, the Coos-Curry Farm Bureau presented their concerns about having agriculture land taken away for restoration. Farmers in the area wanted to keep the land in agricultural production, rather than using it as protected wetlands.

The meeting is scheduled for Thursday in Coquille. The plan will be submitted to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission in August.

Love described the proposed area as "very important for the overall well being of fish and wildlife resources in the valley."

Copyright 2015 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Courtney Christy