Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Enhance the Endangered Species Act
There is a need to move forward with the re authorization of the Endangered Species Act. This antiquated piece of legislation is ripe for enhancement. The act has been a failure in many wildlife communities in our nation.
I ranch in Klamath County, Oregon. For the past 27 years the land I manage has been designated as a private wildlife refuge. I provide supreme habitat for numerous species of vertebrates. Besides limiting hunting, I provide privacy for wildlife to feed and nest. With irrigated lands, the habitat available to wildlife is exceptional.
Close to my property are some of the most important national wildlife refuges in our nation. While these refuges provide an attractant for waterfowl of the northwest flyway, my land provides a refuge that does not concentrate the populations of wildlife. Communicable diseases of waterfowl are not present in the habitat I provide. My ranch operates in concert with wildlife. Our operations are timed to benefit wildlife nesting and feeding.
In 2001 my irrigation water was taken by the federal government. I now have seen the frightening reality of how misdirected the ESA has become. The action of our federal government in the name of species protection resulted in drying up over 700 acres of my land.
The effect upon my wildlife refuge was devastating. There was a line of demarcation between the refuge I was able to irrigate and the dried up refuge forgotten. Where I irrigated one could find nesting Cinnamon Teals and Green Heads. The coyote packs soon found that its prey had moved from the dry land to the pastures I irrigated. In the fall of the year, the waterfowl that would normally use my pasture had to search out feed in other places.
Throughout the Klamath Basin, over 200,000 acres of prime wildlife habitat was dried up in the name of the ESA in 2001. Irrigation water that was withheld was split between maintaining an artificially high Klamath Lake elevation to save the listed Short Nose and the Lost River Suckerfish, and to create an artificially high river flow down the main stem of the Klamath River to save the listed Coho salmon. At the same time, the needs of over 400 other species of vertebrates were ignored.
This management decision was driven by a narrow interpretation of the ESA. Through a limited volume of questionable science, a few individuals made a very damaging decision.
A small step to improve the ESA, a step that may have avoided the drastic decision of 2001 in the Klamath Basin, would be to require peer-reviewed science as a basis for ESA implementation. The peer review system used internationally to advance science has been ignored and avoided by the bureaucratic institutions that implement laws such as the ESA. A judicial order has never referred to peer reviewed science.
The implementation of this small and important enhancement of the ESA would result in better management of our nations resources. There are many other examples of the ESA going against its best intentions. The best way to enhance the ESA is to make some critically important changes to the law. We recognize that the purpose of the ESA has evolved to the point where our healthy wildlife takes a major hit when the law is implemented to address the needs of another species.
The reauthorization of the ESA is overdue. Today is the time to make the law that dried up some of the best wildlife habitat in the Klamath Basin a law that results in management decisions that are scientifically sound. The days of making science fit the preconceived needs of wildlife are gone. The fraud has been exposed by its implementation.
Congressional field hearings are a reality check for our congress. The July17, 2004 hearing of the House Resources Committee in Klamath Falls will touch on the debacle of 2001. It is critical that we move forward and enhance the ESA so that our nations wildlife can continue to benefit from our natural resource production. An enhanced ESA can encourage producers who enhance wildlife habitat. The current path of the ESA has failed the intentions of our nation.
William Kennedy is President of
The Family Farm Alliance and The Klamath Cattlemen's
Association and is Resource Manager of Lost River
Ranch, LLC. He manages 3800 acres in the Klamath
Project, and grazes cattle on private and public
land in Klamath County, Oregon and Glenn County,
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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