Sunday, March 16, 2008

Proposed Klamath Agreement would result in “take” of Bald eagles!

One aspect of the proposed Klamath Agreement which has received almost no attention is proposed California legislation which would grant the California Department of Fish & Game authority to allow “take” - within the California portions of the Klamath and Lost River Basins - of species which are “fully protected” pursuant to the California Endangered Species Act. The species which would be affected include the Bald eagle, Golden eagle, Bull trout, Lost River sucker and Shortnosed sucker. As written, this provision would apply not only to the Upper Basin but also to the Shasta and Scott and right down to the mouth of the Klamath.

Aside from the precedent this would set – weakening the California ESA on behalf of a water deal – it has not been clear why such an exemption would be needed to implement the proposed Klamath Agreement. Now – as a result of briefing materials on the Agreement’s impacts on Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuges provided by Water Watch of Oregon - one reason has become clear.

Let's focus on just one species - the iconic Bald eagle.

Because in drought years it will not supply enough water to support the waterfowl base on Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge needed by the approximately 1,000 Bald eagles which winter in the Basin, it is likely that Bald eagles will be "taken" if the proposed Agreement becomes law. Here’s how it works:

A previous biological opinion which “covered” Bald eagles in the Upper Basin found that Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge needs 32,000 acre feet of water in order to support the waterfowl on which the approximately 1,000 Bald eagles which winter in the Basin depend for food. In winter you can see these Bald eagles on the refuge; they primarily eat frozen ducks and geese. But under the proposed Agreement the Lower Klamath Refuge would receive only 24,000 acre feet of water during drought years and possibly even less. This will require refuge managers to dewater portions of the Refuge. As a result there will be fewer waterfowl for Bald eagles. Some will starve as a result or become so weak they will succumb to disease or other stressors.

It is ironic that tribes which use Bald eagle feathers in their traditional dances and ceremonies would agree to allow these birds to be taken by starvation. It also makes one wonder whether - if they knew about this impact - the traditional and ceremonial leaders of these tribes would allow the political leaders to support an Agreement which provides for starving Bald eagles.

The 1,000 or so Bald eagles which winter in the Klamath Basin is the largest concentration of wintering Bald eagles in the “Lower 48”. Many of the eagles roost on Bear Valley Refuge, near Lower Klamath Refuge, presumably so they can easily access the waterfowl on Lower Klamath on which their survival depends.

There are many contradictions in the proposed Klamath Water Deal; this may be one of the most bizarre.

You can read Water Watch of Oregon’s analysis of impacts the proposed Klamath Agreement would have on the world class Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuges at:

No comments: