Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Fighting for Our Right to Irrigate Our Farms and Caretake Our Natural Resources

     Court Ruling Will Have International Impacts

California Waterfowl Association
4630 Northgate Blvd. Suite 150
Sacramento, CA 95834
(916) 648-1406

April 2001

 The Klamath Basin is the most valuable waterfowl area in North America.  This Basin is critical in sustaining healthy populations of migratory waterfowl for the entire Pacific Flyway.  The diverse mosaic of wetlands, uplands, and agriculture provide staging, breeding, and molting habitat for 20% of all migratory waterfowl in North America.  Stakeholders in the Pacific Flyway include Russia, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon Territories and Northwest Territories of Canada, Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, California, and Mexico.  These include hunters, birdwatchers, Eskimo and Indian tribes in Alaska and northern Canada who rely on migratory waterfowl for subsistence.

 Between 75 and 80 percent of all Pacific Flyway waterfowl, which migrate from Russia, Alaska, and the western Canadian Provinces to southern breeding areas such as California and Mexico, funnel through this critical area to feed and replenish depleted fat reserves that were lost in their long migratory flights.  They actively seek the food-laden wetlands and agricultural crops such as small grains and potatoes to regain their fat reserves.  Some pass through after a brief stop and others stay in the Basin until freezing temperatures send them to their southern wintering grounds.  In spring, the waterfowl return again to acquire and store energy reserves to get them to their northern breeding grounds.  Geese rely heavily on the protein-rich green shoots of irrigated pastures and alfalfa for the energy needed for their flight and grains to build fat reserves for northern breeding.  Their reproductive success is directly related to the condition they are in when they reach breeding areas and this depends on food supplies at migration staging areas like the Klamath Basin. The Basin provides nesting habitat for roughly 50,000 waterfowl, which adds at least 100,000 birds to the fall flight each year.  The Klamath Basin also serves as a major molting area for California raised mallards. During the molt birds are rendered flightless as they shed and replace their flight feathers.  Each year, at least 100,000 ducks use the heavily vegetated, deep-water wetlands to molt where they are relatively safe from predation.  

Over 60 percent of the remaining wetlands in the Central Valley of California are privately owned and managed by hunters.  They manage these few remaining wetlands to provide habitat at significant cost. The Klamath Basin is a key component to the health of nearly all ducks, geese and swans in the Pacific Flyway. Loss of Klamath Basin wetland and food resources will force decline in their numbers and discourage private landowners from spending money on management. This will create degradation of wetlands and compound the affect on waterfowl.

It is critical to the health of the entire eco-system to get water to the Klamath Basin wetlands and wildlife-friendly agriculture.  Over 430 documented species of wildlife live in the Klamath Basin and to adversely affect them to protect only 3 makes ecological NON-sense!  Decisions to withhold water to the Klamath project are destructive to a vital community, a tradition of America’s rural lifestyle, a critical ecological system, and our greatest international ambassadors of wetlands and wildlife – waterfowl.



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