Demand water for migrating waterfowl!
Wildlife in the Klamath Basin are at risk from poor management and a water delivery system which favors agribusiness over the health of the Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges.
Wildlife migrating south through Oregon this fall are in big trouble. The wetlands of the Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges, two of the most important wildlife areas in the western U.S., are bone dry. There could be little or no food or habitat for the hundreds of thousands of geese, eagles, swans and other birds who have come to these wetlands for thousands of years. Sadly, this is not a natural drought — it is a man-made wildlife disaster.
Described as supporting "the greatest concentration of waterfowl in North America and probably the world" Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge alone supports 40% of all the waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway during spring migration, as well as once hosting the largest concentration of wintering bald eagles in the lower 48 states. Over the last century 80% of these wetlands were drained and destroyed to make way for commercial agriculture. Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges are all that remain of a vast network of lakes, rivers, and marshes — a paradise for birds and other wildlife.
Today, the Bureau of Reclamation's massive Klamath Irrigation Project drains and diverts water which would naturally flow to these wetlands in order to provide for commercial agribusiness operations in the arid high desert.
This summer, Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge (LKNWR) wetlands received no water from the middle of May to early September, leaving the refuge parched and almost totally dry. Ironically, water for agribusiness in the Klamath Basin was not significantly reduced.
To make matters worse, some 22,000 acres of National Wildlife Refuge lands are leased for private agribusiness. Lands originally set aside to sustain wetlands for snow geese, tundra swans and eagles are instead dominated by heavy machinery, pesticides and row crops. These lease-land agribusiness operations received full water deliveries this summer, even as adjacent National Wildlife Refuge wetlands went dry.
Please urge the Department of the Interior to direct the Bureau of Reclamation to allow life-giving water to once again flow to the wetlands of the Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges, so wildlife migrating through the region this fall have the food and habitat they need to survive.