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Ridin' Point



The County contracted with Sari Sommarstrom, Ph.D. to attend the science conference with Natural Resource Specialist Ric Costales and report back to the Board of Supervisors. “Science” in the Klamath Basin has been notoriously politically driven and often used to advocate for the particular point of view that financed the study. It has not been evenly representative of the different economic, geographic, cultural and resource use perspectives of the Klamath River Basin system. (For instance, the Yurok tribe has 80 federal and state-funded employees in their fisheries department. Certainly, the disadvantaged communities of the mid-Klamath area have lacked the finances and capacity to access science or to participate in much of the process. Our two local U.C. Extension Service Ag Scientists are seldom involved in the process.) 

Dr. Sommarstrom indicated that although the scientific content of the Conference appeared to be “reasonably objective,” several panelists and speakers made assertions and innuendos about implied “stressors” and cause and effect relationships – particularly criticisms concerning the Scott and Shasta Valleys . These individuals did not even realize the bias they displayed. In the past, scientists in the Klamath have often failed to adhere to the universal scientific method: (1) Ask a question; (2) Do background research; (3) Construct a hypothesis (proposed explanation); (4) test the hypothesis by doing an experiment; (5) Analyze the data and draw a conclusion; and (6) Communicate results.

Sommarstrom pointed out that trust in the scientific findings can only be achieved through an open, inclusive and cooperative process engaging all stakeholders, decision-makers and the public. This is not the process that we have seen so far in the Klamath River Basin .

She indicated that the scientists participating in the conference seemed to view themselves as “above the fray and not needing to engage with any public stakeholder, as that would be seen as tainting or politicizing their research. Collaboration was fine among federal, state and tribal agencies, but not explicitly with local government or the public.” Sommarstrom pointed out in her report, the importance of having the public and decision-makers help to frame the questions for science to answer and that it was important for scientists to listen to those with practical on-the-ground experience. She recommended that Siskiyou County have at least one participating scientist at the table. 

It appeared to be the consensus of scientists at the Conference that the timeline to complete all the proposed scientific studies for the cost/ benefit analysis on dam removal prior to the decision by the Secretary of the Interior was quite unrealistic.    

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