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A new chapter in Klamath River Water Wars

Felice Pace | Jun 19, 2010 10:20 AM

Two years ago High Country News’ cover boldly proclaimed Peace on the Klamath. The reference was to the Klamath River, where a collection of federal and state agencies, irrigators, fishing organizations and environmental groups had announced an agreement which the article claimed would end the river's water wars and result in a future characterized by harmony and collaboration on water issues.

Subsequent events indicate that the resulting Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) has itself resulted in conflict and controversy. Two environmental groups – Waterwatch of Oregon and Oregon Wild - were expelled from negotiations; they have been joined by the Hoopa Tribe and the Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) in opposing the final deal. Both the Hoopa Tribe and the NEC participated in negotiations until the end but decided the final deal is not in their or the Klamath River’s interest. 

Also opposing the deal are Siskiyou County and many local politicians and non-federal irrigators in the Upper Klamath Basin. They allege that the KBRA favors those irrigators and other interests which get water via the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Project over other irrigators in the Basin.

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Joshua Tree instructs students about climate change

Seth Shteir | Jun 09, 2010 02:00 AM

When Joshua Tree National Park Ranger Caryn Davidson announced, "We cannot do much to change the course of climate change," 30 students moved to the corner of the Black Rock Visitor’s Center under a large paper sign with the words "strongly disagree" written in black magic marker.

"Mankind has the intelligence to destroy the world with the atomic bomb and we also have the technology to save it," volunteered one outspoken student. 

Shanti Almanza

"We should make more metros instead of cars," commented another student named Elizabeth.

Ranger Davidson’s statement was not pessimism aimed at discouraging young minds, but part of an educational exercise at Joshua Tree National Park’s Student Climate Change Summit. The activity is called "barometer" and it’s used as a tool to gauge student sentiment and encourage discussion. After a statement is read, students move to one corner of the room with a sign that says “strongly agree” or to the opposite corner that says “strongly disagree.” Students who don’t feel strongly end up in the middle. They then discuss the question with other students who have similar or different views. When Davidson said, “I spend a lot of time thinking about climate change,” the students distributed themselves evenly between the two corners of the room.

Joshua Tree National Park, the Wildlands Conservancy, and the National Parks Conservation Association convened the student climate change summit with the goal of teaching students about climate change, informing them about how climate change will affect park resources, and encouraging students to engage their schools and communities in an ongoing dialog about climate change. But it also took dedicated teachers and administrators to make the summit happen.

The high schoolers were from communities in the California Desert and attended the summit for different reasons.

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Do you need to see a doctor? Queue up.

Mark Trahant | Jun 07, 2010 09:00 AM

Part one in a two-part series

“I need to see a doctor.” These six words have been written into our programming as modern humans. We wait in line at the clinic. We make an appointment. We know instinctively that this is the one person to see who can check out our health, fix us up when it can be done or design a treatment course when we are facing complicated health issues.

But that programming no longer works: There are not enough doctors, and, even if this goes against what we’ve been trained to think, seeing a physician is not always the best medical choice.

The shortage of primary care physicians is one of the larger trends that made health care reform necessary. Some 56 million Americans don’t have a regular doctor. And when you open up more health care access, that scarcity increases. When Massachusetts enacted universal coverage it exacerbated the primary care shortage – something that is expected to occur nationally when some 30 million who have been uninsured seek regular care.

“By 2025, the wait to see a doctor could get a lot longer if the current number of students training to be primary care physicians doesn’t increase soon,” a new University of Missouri study notes.

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Colin Peterson, the 2012 Farm Bill and the environment

Felice Pace | Jun 05, 2010 05:35 AM

Lead by Chairman Colin Peterson of Minnesota, the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee held hearings and took testimony in April and May in preparation for a new Farm Bill. Peterson would like to pass a new version of the bill in 2012.

The process began with a hearing in DC on April 21st which I reported upon on this blog. Peterson then took the show on the road with hearings in Georgia, Alabama, Texas, South Dakota, California, Idaho, Iowa and Wyoming. Hearing witness lists and opening statements can be found on the House Agriculture Committee web site.

In DC and at field hearings all witness were producers of agricultural commodities, producers of forest products or professors – mostly from land grant Ag schools. Conspicuously absent were witnesses representing the environment; only one organic producer was among the dozens of agricultural leaders who testified.

Why were these hearings not more balanced? Are Ag and forest products producers and professors the only ones with ideas for the new Farm Bill? Are environmentalists across the country just not interested in agricultural issues or did Chairman Peterson intentionally exclude them from witness lists?  And why is the environmental community not protesting their exclusion loudly in the press?

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The 2012 Farm Bill dance has a sad history

Felice Pace | Jun 03, 2010 01:10 AM

Last week the Agricultural Committee of the US House of Representatives began work on the 2012 Farm Bill with a kick-off hearing. I happened to be in DC at the time and I stood in line with lobbyists for farm groups waiting to get a good seat in the wood paneled hearing room.

I was not in DC to attend the hearing, however. My trip was intended to educate Members of Congress about the recently signed Klamath Dam and Water Deals. The Department of Interior – which orchestrated those Klamath Deals beginning during the Bush Administration – had just delivered draft federal legislation intended to get Congress to endorse the Deals without delving into the details.

My mission was to interest Members of Congress from Oregon and California and those who sit on committees which will consider Klamath legislation precisely in those details – to make them aware that serious questions have been raised about whether aspects of the Deals are in the Public Interest and in the interest of the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon. I’ve worked to clean-up the Klamath and restore Klamath Salmon for 35 years; I want Congress to fix what I see as bad policies, bad precedents and bad subsidies that are part of the Klamath Dam and Water Deals.

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HCN Reader Photo: Western Sandpipers

Stephanie Paige Ogburn | May 27, 2010 05:13 AM

Western Sandpipers

Given all the sad news and images out of the Gulf lately, particularly of oil-covered fauna like birds, I thought I'd highlight this reader-submitted photo of two happy and healthy Western sandpipers - as a reminder that there are still some things right with the world.

This photograph is from Flickr member SigmaEye, a regular contributor of beautiful images to our Flickr pool. Submit your photos to our pool too! We feature them regularly on the Range blog.

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Archives and legal precedents

Felice Pace | May 20, 2010 01:18 AM

Within the Currents offerings in the April 26th edition Matt Jenkins provide readers with a description (for subscribers only) of one of the West’s most important archives -  The Water Resources Center Archive at the University of California in Berkeley.  Matt tells us that historian Donald Worster was among those who did research at the archive. The resulting volume – Worster’s "Rivers of Empire" – is de rigueur for those who hope to understand Western water politics.

Jenkin’s piece invites us to consider one among the likely thousands of unintended consequences that are resulting from the current round of state budget crises. It also caused me to consider more broadly which sources end up in archives and which sources are not typically preserved for future generations. I’m betting, for example, that the papers of academics, politicians and bureaucrats make it into archives much more frequently than the papers of everyday people and grassroots organizations.

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HCN Reader Photo: Prisoner plantings

Stephanie Paige Ogburn | May 06, 2010 02:00 AM

Prisoner plantings

This week's reader photo is another photo contest submission. It shows the hands of inmates propogating plants to be used in restoration projects in Washington State. Check out this photo and many others at our contest site, and enter your photos of Western people into the contest before the deadline - May 9.

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Measuring progress in Native health

Mark Trahant | May 03, 2010 02:55 AM

Consider this from a White House memo: “While there have been improvements in health status of Indians in the past 15 years, a loss of momentum can further slow the already sluggish rate of approach to parity. Increased momentum in health delivery and sanitation as insured by this bill speed the rate of closing the existing gap in age at death.”

Progress is slow, though -- Dr. Ted Marrs wrote the memo on April 26, 1976, and the subject was the original Indian Health Care Improvement Act. “In 1974 the average age at death of Indians and Alaskan natives was 48.3. For white U.S. citizens the average age of death was 72.3. For others, the average age was 62.7.”

Dr. Marrs wrote that the “bottom line” was an unavoidable connection between “equity and morality” when there is a more than 20-year differential in age at death between Indians and non-Indians.

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Meditational rant on the word "pristine"

Felice Pace | Apr 29, 2010 07:25 AM

This morning my local radio station aired an ad which referred to the natural environments of California's North Coast. It was for an outdoor store; listeners were encouraged to enjoy our regions river, beaches and pristine mountain tops.

This really gets my goat. I've been on most of those mountain tops over the past 35 years and I can tell you that I have never been on one that fit the proper definition of the word pristine. Here is that definition:     pris·tine (pr s t n , pr -st n ). adj. 1. a. Remaining in a pure state; uncorrupted by civilization. b. Remaining free from dirt or decay; clean.

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