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It's important to keep lease lands producing


Published April 23, 2004

Another year, another attempt to end farming on the lease lands on two refuges in the Klamath Basin - Tule Lake and Lower Klamath.

Permission to farm on the two refuges south of the Oregon-California border was part of an historic agreement written into the Kuchel Act during the 1960s to govern water and land use. It goes back to the days when government believed in settling dry lands and bringing water to them so they could grow food for themselves and others.

The Kuchel Act made it clear that continuing to farm on lands leased by the federal government on the refuges was to be part of the deal. About 10 percent of the 200,000 acres on the refuges are farmed.

A coalition of environmental organizations has released a report that says the refuges don't get enough water, and that the way to solve this is to discontinue refuge farming. We've heard it before from these same people.

Wetlands on the refuges fall last in line in priority for Klamath River water. Ahead of them are endangered species, tribal trust rights and the Klamath Project. The refuges get water that runs through the Klamath Project, and, as pointed out by Dan Keppen, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, "When the farms don't get water, the refuges don't get water."

Those 20,000 acres are important to the Basin. They contribute to the agricultural base that encourages support services such as farm implement and fertilizer dealers, and transportation systems that serve not just lease-land farmers, but all farmers. The income is important, too, as it makes its way from farmers to the people they buy things from.

There are valid reasons for farming a small part of the refuges.

The "H&N view" represents the opinion of the newspaper's editorial board, which consists of Publisher John Walker, Editor Tim Fought, City Editor Todd Kepple and Opinion Editor Pat Bushey. Most of the editorials are written by Bushey.





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