Saturday, March 21, 2009

Siskiyou Supervisors Trash Fishing and Cal Trout

The Siskiyou County Supervisors have a reputation in government circles; discussion of their antics usually provokes laughter and the shaking of heads. That was the case recently when a newspaper report on the Siskiyou Supervisors March 10th meeting revealed the supervisors' attitudes toward salmon and the fishermen’s group Cal Trout.

Siskiyou County Supervisors never miss an opportunity to posture and rant about how this or that environmental protection is destroying the county economy. The latest opportunity was a report by the firm of McBain and Trush on a Shasta River flow study. Marcia Armstrong, who represents western Siskiyou County, including the Scott River Valley, complained that “everything is for fish, and everything else is going to the john!” She then proclaimed that fishing is no longer a vital activity in the county.

Supervisor Armstrong was expressing her hope rather than describing reality. Numerous economic studies document the benefits that steelhead and salmon continue to contribute to Klamath River Communities. Those economic benefits could be much larger however. A report from the United States Geological Survey estimated the economic benefits of restored Klamath River fisheries to local and regional communities in the billions of dollars. While even the current depressed fisheries bring significant revenue to Klamath River communities, Armstrong only recognizes mining, logging and agriculture as contributing to local well being.

Supervisor Jim Cook agreed with Armstrong. He also expressed his opinion of Cal Trout: “This is the first time I’ve seen anything that Cal Trout has been involved with that wasn’t a piece of crap,” he concluded. He was referring to the flow study which the Department of Fish and Game contracted with Cal Trout to complete. The fishing organization hired McBain and Trush to do the work.

The ideological positions adopted by the Siskiyou Supervisors have sometimes harmed the interest of their citizens. The March 18th edition of the Siskiyou Daily News, for example, reported the purchase of Big Springs Ranch by The Nature Conservancy, including this statement: The conservancy hopes to alleviate regulatory pressures on ranchers along the rest of the river system…..She explained that this can hopefully be achieved with the improvements on the land now owned by the conservancy.

Big Springs on the Shasta River

This is not the first time that the Big Springs Area was targeted for restoration. The BLM tried to purchase the wetlands and springs in the area a decade ago for the same purposes and was blocked by the Siskiyou County Supervisors. The Supervisors are ideologically opposed to new public ownership. The private entity that subsequently purchased the land diverted more water from Big Springs – harming Coho, other fisheries and downstream irrigators. Had the BLM been allowed to purchase Big Springs Ranch in exchange for selling more acreage elsewhere in the county, the Coho would likely not be as imperiled as they now are in the Shasta River. The current burden on landowners to provide for fish and water quality would also likely be lower if the Supervisors' opposition had not blocked the project.

As in the case with the BLM and Big Springs wetlands, the Siskiyou Supervisors’ ideological stances have consistently and persistently delayed restoration and encouraged degradation of salmon habitat. Ignored problems don’t go away, they just get bigger and require bigger changes and dislocations when they are finally faced. By refusing to recognize problems and to support real solutions, the Siskiyou Supervisors contribute to conditions which result in ESA designations, Clean Water Act impairment listings and environmental litigation.

There is an old saying that some folks would rather curse the darkness than light a light. To KlamBlog that adage describes the Siskiyou Supervisors to a tee.

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