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

               Do Government Wildlife Biologists Have An Anti-People Agenda?

FEBRUARY 27, 2002



CHURCHVILLE, VA-  Do government wildlife biologists know a fish from a file memo? Their official work doesn’t seem to show it.

The National Academy of Sciences just concluded that government biologists had no scientific basis for cutting off virtually all the irrigation water to farmers in the Klamath Basin of Oregon and Washington last year. The water shutdown coincided with the worst drought in the region’s recorded history, leaving most of the farmers with no crops—and no income—for a year.

Supposedly, the water cut-off was to protect the endangered sucker fish and the threatened Coho salmon in Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River. However, the National Academy points out that the government "has not shown a clear connection between water level in Upper Klamath Lake and conditions that are adverse to the welfare of suckers."

In fact, the National Academy noted that the best year ever recorded for sucker survival was a low-water year. Nor have incidents of fish die-offs paralleled years of low water level. The NAS panel even warned that releasing extra water during a drought year might endanger the salmon because the reservoir water had warmed so much that it might "equal or exceed the lethal temperature for Coho salmon during hot summer months."

A Fish and Wildlife Service official quickly noted that the Academy panel "didn’t say the science proves we were wrong; they just said there wasn’t enough science to prove us right."

Why does that statement fill me with foreboding? Does this mean government biologists will now go out and try to justify themselves by "finding" new evidence? Good science generally comes from trying to find the larger truth among the oft-conflicting cycles and anomalies in the natural world. Good science rarely comes from bureaucratic self-justification.

Salmon catches have soared in the past two years throughout the Pacific Northwest, belatedly reminding the world that there is a natural 25-year cycle in the huge North Pacific salmon fishery—between the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf of Alaska. Oregon’s 2001 salmon catch was 272,000 tons, up from only 62,000 in 1999. In fact, I predicted the return of big salmon catches two years ago based on that 25-year cycle.

Did the biologists of the National Marine Fisheries Service remind us of this natural fish population cycle when the Sierra Club began predicting the extinction of Pacific Northwest salmon, supposedly due to logging, irrigated farming, dams, and the other things the Sierra Club hates?

They did not.

Are the Fisheries Service experts currently pointing out the recovery of California salmon as part of the same phenomenon? The San Francisco Chronicle noted last December 19, "A 14-fold increase in the numbers of endangered salmon the past five years has set off a ring of euphoria across California among the few who have learned of it." The Chronicle credits the upturn in salmon numbers to California’s expensive fish-management efforts, but Oregon’s salmon manager says, "The [Pacific Ocean] is alive with bait fish" (thanks to the return of the currents).

So far, biologists haven’t helped us to see environmental reality very clearly:

In the 1960s, biologist Garrett Hardin invented "lifeboat ethics," which demanded we let millions of poor Third World people starve, instead of launching the Green Revolution to triple the crop yields on their existing farmland.

Dr. E. O. Wilson, a Harvard biologist who has won two Pulitzer Prizes for his writing skills, predicts the world will lose 50 percent of its wild species in the next 50 years. The United National Environmental Program, in sharp contrast, suggests the world will lose less than 1 percent of its wild species over the next five decades. Is Dr. Wilson an alarmist?

Paul Ehrlich, the biologist who wrote The Population Bomb in 1968, urges us to reduce the world’s human population from the current 6 billion to less than 2 billion "soon," and says the policy implications of his recommendation are obvious.

Note also the recent "lynx hoax" in Washington State, in which a small group of federal and state wildlife biologists used hair from "tame" lynx to "document" the presence of rare Canada lynx in two U.S. national forests. Only a whistle-blower prevented further limits on public activity in those publicly owned forests.

Many wildlife biologists apparently prefer the world as it was 10,000 years ago, before so many people began to live so well. Many "wildlife experts" seem to have formed a dangerous relationship with eco-activists, who dislike people, and scare-hungry journalists to indict legitimate and sustainable human activities.

By promoting to the public unwarranted fears of forest loss, salmon or owl extinction and sucker fish reduction, the government wildlife biologist becomes even more dangerous. He or she can gain additional public approval (and budget) by shutting down small farmers, keeping small fishing boats in port, and putting healthy forests off-limits to sustainable tree harvest.

Today the Pacific Northwest, tomorrow the world?

Dennis T. Avery is a senior fellow for Hudson Institute of Indianapolis and the Director of the Center for Global Food Issues. He was formerly a senior policy analyst for the U.S. Department of State. Readers may write him at Post Office Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421.


Table of Contents Homesteaders Contact





Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 01, All Rights Reserved