Playground Politics


After reading Matt Jenkins' article, I looked back at HCN's tag line: "For people who care about the West," and wondered what this means in the context of the so-called "ceasefire" in the Klamath (HCN, 6/23/08). Turns out caring for the West and the invaluable ecosystems in the Klamath is tough, especially if your cares include egrets, river flows or wetland restoration.

Jenkins characterizes the recent events in the Klamath as a ceasefire, but ongoing dialogue among interest groups in the basin hardly reflects a ceasefire. In fact, some might argue that the settlement agreement has caused nothing but unnecessary fractures between communities that have had long relationships on the Klamath.

The Klamath experience as the product of "perpetual negotiation" is entirely misleading. The settlement is the result of sweetheart deals and Bush administration propaganda, with a hope for fisheries restoration. Furthermore, it is the product of playground politics -- if you disagree, there's no room for negotiation, you're simply kicked off the team.

Though Jenkins acknowledges the settlement is nowhere near done, what he neglects to mention are the potential pitfalls, those concerns raised by groups like Oregon Wild and WaterWatch of Oregon (kicked off the team), and even some groups still in the room (Northcoast Environmental Center). Sadly, this peaceful settlement allows for continued chemical-intensive commercial agriculture on over 22,000 acres of National Wildlife Refuge land for at least 50 years, does not provide river flows for fish that meet the basin's best available science, lacks a comprehensive drought plan, and eliminates opportunities for water quality improvement by constraining upper basin wetland restoration.

The Klamath Basin battle for water requires compromise from all to create a holistic solution that manages for fish and wildlife success while bringing water demand back into balance with what the basin can naturally provide.

Ani Kame'enui
Klamath Campaign Coordinator, Oregon Wild
Portland, Oregon