AP NEWS

Refuge management under fire

January 8, 2019

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The federal government recently fended off attacks from all sides while defending its management of six national wildlife refuges against legal challenges from farmers and environmentalists.

The Capital Press reports the U.S. Interior Department is facing three lawsuits filed by three environmental groups who allege its plans for the 200,000-acre Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex along the Oregon-California border violates several federal laws.

A fourth complaint from six farms and agriculture groups alleges the agency has unlawfully exceeded its authority by restricting leases of refuge land for agricultural purposes.

The agricultural plaintiffs —Tulelake Irrigation District, Klamath Water Users Association, Tally Ho Farms Partnership, Four H Organics, Woodhouse Farming and Seed Co. and Tulelake Growers Association — claim a comprehensive conservation plan adopted in 2017 will substantially reduce acreage available for farming within the refuge complex.

Under the plan, certain new agricultural leases will be subject to “special use permits” that include new requirements for “compatibility” between agriculture and waterfowl habitat.

These stipulations include flooding fields after harvest, limiting tillage in the autumn, prohibiting the planting of genetically engineered crops and disallowing the hazing of waterfowl during the first four months of the year.

According to the farm plaintiffs, these restrictions will render agriculture less productive and undermine its future viability in the area by reducing revenues and creating operational difficulties.

The Tule Lake and Lower Klamath national wildlife refuges were established with the purpose of leasing land for agriculture, which is worth about $30 million in the two areas and supports about 600 jobs in the region, the complaint said.

Environmental groups suing over the management of the Klamath-area national wildlife refuges take aim at other aspects of the government’s plan: the amount of water allotted for waterfowl habitat, the continued use of pesticides and the impacts of grazing on federally protected species.