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Bill Hanley’s Wetlands Offer Birds Winter Haven

Bill Hanley, the Jacksonville-born owner of the Double O Ranch in Eastern Oregon, operated five ranches and had access to thousands of acres of public range.  In 1913 his cattle operations covered 200,000 acres.

In his early years as a rancher, Hanley experimented with draining tule swamps, and designed a series of dikes, ditches, and reservoirs to divert the Silvies River.  He gradually became sensitive to the changing science and value of water in the Harney Valley for dependent wildlife.  His ranch’s wetlands, riparian areas, and meadows became habitat for migrating birds, and a winter haven for non-migratory birds. 

Hanley invited guests like Theodore Roosevelt, James J. Hill, and Will Rogers to watch flocks of traveling geese and swans in the fall, as well as egrets, herons, pelicans and many duck species. It was said that some geese felt so at home on the ranch that they attacked the cookhouse door if grain was not provided for them.  Hunters who attempted to shoot birds on the Double O faced immediate arrest. 

Much of the Hanley grazing land is now part of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.


Source: Langston, Nancy. Where Land and Water Meet: A Western Landscape Transformed. University of Washington Press, 2005. Print; "William “Bill” Hanley." Wikipedia. 26 June 2015. Web. 23 July 2015. .

Maryann Mason has taught history and English in the U.S. Midwest and Northwest, and Bolivia. She has written history spots for local public radio, interviewed mystery writers for RVTV Noir, and edited personal and family histories.  Her poetry has appeared in Sweet Annie & Sweet Pea Review (1999), Rain Magazine (2007), and The Third Reader, an online Journal of Literary Fiction and Poetry. In 2008 she published her first chapbook, Ravelings.  She organized a History Day for Southern Oregon.