rejects arguments against farming in Klamath wildlife refuges
Standing grain is left for
migrating birds in the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge
Complex. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected
several lawsuits over farming in the refuge complex.
A federal appeals court has rejected
claims that irrigation, pesticides and grazing in several
Klamath Basin national wildlife refuges are managed in
violation of environmental laws.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
has also dismissed arguments by farm representatives that
agriculture is too strictly regulated in the Klamath Basin
National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
Last year, a federal judge threw out
multiple lawsuits filed in 2017 against a “comprehensive
conservation plan” for five refuges within the complex,
which straddles the Oregon-California border.
A unanimous panel of three 9th Circuit
judges has now upheld that decision, ruling that the Fish
and Wildlife Service’s plan complies with all the laws
governing the 200,000-acre refuge complex.
“Given the extensive evidence in the
record supporting the choices made by the Service, the panel
saw nothing that authorized us, as the reviewing court, to
make different choices,” the 9th Circuit said.
More than 20,000 acres in two of the
refuges are leased for crop cultivation, which environmental
advocates complained is prioritized over wildlife habitat.
The 9th Circuit has disagreed with
that argument, ruling that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s
plan struck the appropriate balance between agriculture and
wildfowl management as required by refuge management
Environmental advocates also claimed
the federal government violated the National Environmental
Policy Act by failing to consider scaling back agricultural
leases on refuge lands.
However, the agency properly explained
that it didn’t consider this option because farming helps
waterfowl populations by providing them with food, the 9th
Also, reducing farmed acreage in the
refuges would not make more water available for wetlands,
since it would instead go to more senior irrigators
elsewhere, the ruling said.
The government’s rules for pesticide
spraying also came under fire from environmental advocates,
who claimed the government should have evaluated heightened
The 9th Circuit has found that
argument “unavailing,” since the Fish and Wildlife Service
reasonably decided that further restricting pesticide usage
wasn’t feasible, the 9th Circuit said.
“FWS adequately explained that some
amount of pesticide use was necessary on the Refuges to
ensure sufficient crop production, on which Refuge waterfowl
now depend,” the ruling said.
Similarly, the government didn’t have
to evaluate livestock curtailments in one of the refuges,
since it considers grazing necessary to control weed species
and promote sage grouse habitat, the 9th Circuit said.
“Overall, FWS concluded that the
negative effects of the limited, managed grazing program on
sage-grouse were outweighed by the positive effects of the
program,” the ruling said.
While most objections to the refuge
management plan centered on environmental concerns,
restrictions on crop production were also challenged by
several farms and agricultural organizations.
These plaintiffs claimed the
management plan violated federal laws by increasing the
acreage devoted to wetlands and unharvested grain, among
The 9th Circuit disagreed that farming
is “automatically consistent” with proper waterfowl
management and thus limits on agriculture are unauthorized.
Federal refuge management statutes
“unambiguously prioritize” wildlife over agriculture, which
must be consistent with waterfowl objectives, the ruling
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.
section 107, any copyrighted material
herein is distributed without profit or
payment to those who have expressed a
prior interest in receiving this
information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only. For more
information go to: