Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Comments of Cooperative
by Marcia Armstrong, Siskiyou County Supervisor District 5
The following are my comments in regard to
“cooperative conservation.” I am going to speak
BACKGROUNDDemographic and Economic Impacts
I can say with considerable experience that oppressive environmental regulations are strangling our local rural communities to death. The result has been dramatic demographic changes, such as an overall decrease in the population aged 30-39, (as well as school aged children,) and an increase in the population aged 50-59, with those aged 60 making up a higher percentage of the population than the state average. School enrollment since 1990 has declined from 25-30%. This aging trend is projected to steadily increase over the next 20 years.
During this same period (post-Northwest Forest Plan,) average unemployment in the county has been 12.3%. In 2003, 39.5% of the population was in the labor force. This is projected to decline another 8.7% by 2015. Between 1990 and 2002, poverty rose 32.9% to 18.6% of the population. Several farming communities have higher poverty rates: 34.6% in Tulelake; 26% in Fort Jones; and 24.2% in Montague. Median income for the county in 1999 was $29,530 – compared to the California median of $47,493. (2005 Economic & Demographic Profile –Center for Economic Development, Chico State.) This is not a healthy trend.
In 2004, a socioeconomic study was done of the impact of the Northwest Forest Plan on three communities in the Klamath National Forest (Northwest Forest Plan Socioeconomic Monitoring Module: Klamath National Forest and Three Local Communities Case Study Review Draft - September 3, 2004 -Changes from 1990-2000.) Two of these communities are in my district:
Mid-Klamath (National Forest community)
• The population declined 22%.
• Those aged 0-44 dropped from 45-50%.
• Those Age 45-64 grew 86%.
• School enrollment dropped 42%.
• Median household income declined from $31,236 to $20,924 (drop of 33%.)
• Households earning less than $10,000 grew by 24%.
• Unemployment climbed from 16.18% to 19.60%.
Scott Valley Area (Agricultural- bedroom community)
• Those aged 0-4 dropped by 32%, aged 30-44 by 28%.
• Age 45-64 grew 47% and 65 and over by 27%.
• There was a 72% drop in school enrollment.
• Median household income increased 10% from $27,888 to $30,545.
• Unemployment increased from 8.95% to 9.32%.
• The number of households earning less than $10,000 decreased 21%. Real estate jobs increased 59%. Public jobs increased 32%.
Impacts on Forest Health
Siskiyou County has a population of about 45,000, is 6,600 square miles large and has about 60% of its landbase locked up in federally managed lands. My district includes portions of the Six Rivers National Forest, The Klamath National Forest and the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. It also includes lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The Klamath NF has a standing inventory of 13.5 billion board feet of timber. It is growing another 654 Million board feet (mmbf) of timber a year. In 1989, the KNF harvested 320 mmbf.; in 2003 – 35 mmbf. Projected annual harvest going forward next year in the Klamath National Forest is somewhere less than 15 mmbf. of timber, which includes salvage and firewood sales. This means a net addition of 639 million board feet a year to contribute to already unhealthy forest conditions. This is a far cry from the levels promised under the Northwest Forest Plan. It is evident from a local perspective that the Forest has abandoned the responsibility of managing its lands.
Recently, I visited the Incident Command Post for the fires in my district: Titus, Hancock, Uncles Complex and Rush. So far, 30,249 acres have burned and $27.6 million has been spent on trying to keep them controlled until the fall rains and snow can extinguish them. Over the county border, another 16,000 acres have burned in the Six Rivers and 51,000 on the Shasta Trinity. Some of the roads that the USFS had spent money on decommissioning for environmental reasons had to be reopened.
Needless to say, the smoke from these burns is having a negative impact on our $60 million tourism industry and the 2,500 jobs it employs.
Meanwhile, the federal budget for actually managing forests such as the Klamath National Forest and the Shasta Trinity have been stripped to almost nothing. One District Ranger told me that he has lost 34 staff people. He no longer has the capacity to do timber sales. His staff is largely a fire crew. Virtually, no large timber sales are done on the Klamath NF in my area. They have all been litigated in court and quashed by liberal judges over technicalities/ failure to study them to death. It is even rare that fuel reduction projects go through and the studies required end up costing the taxpayer more than the revenue they bring in.
Siskiyou County currently produces $42,000,000 in timber value -28% of our local economy. There has been a steady decrease in production since 1995. We have lost 80% of our logging jobs since 1989, (from 951 jobs in 1989, to 331 in 1995, to 186 in 2004.) We once had 50 timber mills in Siskiyou County and were the second largest timber producing county in California. We are still the second largest, but we have dropped to 2 veneer mills. These veneer mills use trees smaller than 20 inches in diameter. We no longer have the capacity to process larger trees in this county and without a guarantee of raw product, no one will invest in rebuilding that capacity. On the state level, since 1973, California’s share of the softwood timber market by volume has declined from 25% to 15%
A forester at Timber Products told me that they used to get upwards of 70% of their timber from local National Forests. This has declined to 12%. We need a steady stream of commercial-sized timber to sustain our local mills. Sometimes this means taking a few larger trees to be shipped up to the mill in Roseburg, Oregon to offset costs. We also need assistance in developing industries for wood by-products, chips and sub-merchantable timber we may be able to get off the Forest from the limited fuel reduction projects that are being funded.
Impacts on Small Family Farms
Agriculture contributes $120,000,000 in value to our local economy. Since 1998, Siskiyou County's agriculture industries have experienced substantial job loss at 420 jobs, declining almost 35%. Production areas are mainly in the north: the Tulelake/Klamath Basin for row crops such as potatoes and some grains; Butte Valley for horticultural crops, mostly strawberry stock; and the mid-Klamath Scott and Shasta River Valleys for alfalfa, hay and cattle. Each area contributes about 1/3 to the ag economy. The Tulelake area is a federal Reclamation Project, dating back to the early 1900s. Its’ irrigation supply is distributed by the Bureau of Reclamation, providing a federal nexus that triggers Endangered Species Act consultation, biological opinions and tribal trust considerations. This has created great uncertainty for farmers, with water supply shut offs in 2001, and leading to the well-publicized re-opening of the head gates and the Klamath Bucket brigade. To these communities and families, it is a constant battle to even survive regulatory impacts. (Listed coho, sucker fish and bird species.)
The Bureau of Reclamation has been working on an attempt to fold the planning for the entire Klamath system under its Conservation Implementation Program – seen largely as yet another planning effort to impose federal control over the area.
In the mid-Klamath Scott and Shasta River areas, small historic farms and ranches date back to the California Gold Rush. A very large number of agriculturalists are farming the same land that has been in the family for five generations. There is a very real cultural heritage component at stake. Water use rights have long been adjudicated and are within the jurisdiction of the County Superior Court. Although most of the regulatory pressure seems to be coming through the state level, these farmers have been inundated by wave after wave of regulation for endangered species/species of concern (primarily coho salmon, chinook salmon and steelhead trout,) and water quality Total maximum Daily Load restrictions and regional regulations. Just last week, we met with the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board on yet another layer of regional regulations to protect riparian and wetland areas and watershed processes.
Habitat restoration projects in the Scott and Shasta have been planned to death under the Long Range Klamath River Basin Fisheries Task Force plan, the California Coho Recovery Plan, Shasta Watershed Recovery Plan, Scott River Strategic Action Plan, the Shasta River and Scott River Programmatic Incidental Take Permit Applications. $7,235,000 in immediate construction- ready project needs have been identified for the Scott River and $10,750,000 for the Shasta River. These projects have all been endorsed by the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors. We don’t need more planning, we need funding without federal strings. Obviously, the people of this county do not have the resources to fund the mitigations posed by the regulatory requirements being heaped upon them. It should also be noted that the County coffers are also poor and that county government does not wish to shoulder the regulatory and enforcement burden of incorporating endangered species mitigations into County codes under a Habitat Conservation Plan. From a local perspective, it is almost as if the federal and state governments want to extirpate local resource industries, economies and communities.
It should be noted that these two agricultural areas are part of the Klamath River system, which has experienced depressed Chinook salmon stocks due to parasitic and bacterial disease. Although there are unknown oceanic impacts, conditions in the Klamath have largely caused the closure of commercial fishing for about 700 miles of the West Coast.
The average age of a farmer in the United States is in his/her late 50s. The average age of a rancher is in his mid 60s. As shown in Siskiyou County, their children are leaving the business and rural areas. No one wants to live under the uncertainty and stress of the regulatory burden with which they must continually cope, in addition to unpredictable natural forces. There is growing pressure by inflowing retirees to convert agricultural lands into subdivisions for recreational and retirement homes. As a matter of national and environmental interest, the federal and state governments need to take a closer look at their policies and regulations and craft solutions that benefit the agricultural economies of rural areas and create public benefits to the environment – not through heavy regulatory pressure, but through technical and financial support and incentive.
What has/hasn’t worked
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) provides a long term rental contract for previously cropped riparian areas. It has worked well when payments are adequate and it has been funded by Congress. This has been broadly embraced by local mid-Klamath farmers and has created far more riparian land set asides and cooperation than the forced regulatory taking of private property under the 300 foot critical habitat buffers by NOAA under the federal coho listing.
I don’t believe that Conservation Easements are a good thing. The English learned that it was not a good idea to mess with the underlying fee estate by subinfeudation. It appears that Americans have failed to learn this lesson. Land use planning should rightly rest with local government. Future populations should be able to decide what is appropriate zoning and land use. If there is a perpetual easement restricting or dictating use, then the power is being diverted from local control to some conservancy or the state or federal government. I believe that is wrong for our rural areas and our country.
Advisory bodies such as the Klamath River Basin Fisheries Task Force must have balanced representation and the public interest in mind, while respecting private property rights. It is wrong to have special interest lobbyists from commercial and sports fisheries given the same voice and vote as an elected county or tribal official or a representative from a state or federal agency. It is wrong to have one special interest pose policy directly affecting another competing interest that is not given equal representation at the table. (The Bureau of Reclamation is about to make the same mistake with its CIP.)
When the coho was federally listed, Siskiyou County tried to get NOAA Fisheries to accept its’ “pilot project” concept. They never did, but the state Department of Fish and Game or DFG has embraced the concept in the voluntary “Programmatic Incidental Take Permits “ or ITP being proposed for the Scott (Siskiyou Resource Conservation District) and Shasta (Shasta Resource Conservation District.) Valleys. These permits are for agricultural operations. Most farmers and ranchers have indicated a willingness to participate. The application has been accepted, conditions worked out and it is now with the DFG for review prior to CEQA.
Under the programmatic ITP, the RCD would be the permit holder. There would be sub-agreements between the RCD and the participating landowner/diverter. The sub-
agreement would specify the particular activities covered. These could include: (1) diversion of water from streams, channels and sloughs; (2) installation, operation and removal of structures used in the diversion of water; (3) installation, operation and maintenance of fish screens at diversions and pumping locations; (4) movement of livestock and vehicles across flowing streams; (5) grazing within the bed, bank or channel of a stream; (6) installation and maintenance of riparian fencing; (7) riparian re-vegetation; and (8) water management.
Participants would agree to abide by permit conditions and to be responsible for avoidance and minimization measures. First among these measures is adherence to water use rights and verification of the quantity of water diverted. Measures also include agreements to: (1) maintain connectivity of the mainstem Scott River with the tributaries of Shackleford; French, Wildcat and Miners Creek through equitable water management until June fifteen of each year; (2) use fish screens; (3) remove certain fish barriers; (4) install riparian fencing; (4) harden crossings; and (7) cooperate with fish rescue efforts.
Participants must also agree to allow the RCD to implement required mitigation measures to compensate for fish impacts. (These could be things like riparian planting, renewing spawning gravel and removing barriers that block access to fish.) The RCD would try to obtain grant funding for any mitigation measures. It would administer the program and monitor sub-agreement implementation for compliance. An annual fee will most likely be charged for administration and monitoring services.
The RCD has no regulatory authority. Should a participant violate a sub-agreement, the RCD would first counsel the violator on compliance. If the violation continued, the RCD could terminate the sub-agreement.
County Relationships with Federal AgenciesI think it is obvious that the needs of local communities, industries and the county are not being met under current environmental regulations and the relationship with the federal government. If this is a partnership. it is not working. There is little if no “cooperative conservation” going on at our local levels. Political decisions are made elsewhere or dictated by the courts with very little understanding of the impact these decisions have on rural communities.
Comprehensive Land and Resource Management Plan
In the aftermath of the Northwest Forest Plan and Rangeland Reform, Siskiyou County joined the Federal Lands Conference and similar “local control” movements in writing a Comprehensive Land and Resource Management Plan. This document relies on State and federal laws, such as NEPA, (National Environmental Policy Act,) FLPMA (Federal Land Policy and Management Act) and NFMA (National Forest Management Act) that require that the agency land use efforts are both coordinated and consistent with local land use plans and policies. Purportedly, agencies must consult and coordinate with the County in decision making when proposed actions have physical, social or economic impacts on the County or its citizens.
By statute, the USDA Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) must also protect the economic or community stability of communities surrounding National Forest or BLM managed lands. “Community Stability” is described and defined at the local County level. The Siskiyou County Comprehensive Land and Resource Management Plan outlines that process:
Examples of economic impacts that should be analyzed::
• Economic diversity;
• Employment and wages, marketability of workforce skills;
• Industry unit cost effects - animal unit months (AUMs); million board feet (MMBF); cubic feet per second (cfs.) or acre feet of water; recreational user days or other units of measurement as appropriate;
• Variable thresholds for business demand and markets.
• Business planning and financing dependent upon continued availability of a natural resource.
• The level of manufacturing or processing technology required of local industry;
The plan further establishes that objectives of planned projects or actions need to be evaluated for impacts on the commodity and amenity outputs or production thresholds needed to maintain community stability in order to:
• Ensure continuity and diversity of the heritage of customs, culture and usages of the citizens of Siskiyou County.
• Maintain the integrity of private property rights and investment backed expectations.
• Achieve values that have been determined to be important or necessary to the well being, general community prosperity and economic welfare of the citizens of Siskiyou County.
These objectives and production or output levels will then become goals and evaluation criteria against which all related proposals and alternatives shall be evaluated.
Examples of social impacts that should be analyzed
• Potential population loss or demographic change;
• Loss of traditional use or access - impacting local culture;
• Effects on local communities and families;
Examples of impacts on the County that should be analyzed
• The County's ability to provide services for the health, safety, and social well-being of its citizens;
• The County's ability to finance public programs and services;
• Tax revenue loss to local governments and schools;
• Effects on transportation, water, sewer, sanitation, electric power generation and transmission, irrigation housing, and real estate values;
• Effects on pest and predation control, weed abatement.
Unfortunately, federal agencies ignored the statutory mandates for coordination, cooperation and joint environmental analysis. We did not see the required analysis on NEPA documents. So Siskiyou County passed an ordinance -Title 10. Planning and Zoning, Chapter 12 “COUNTY PARTICIPATION IN STATE AND FEDERAL AGENCIES LAND TRANSACTIONS”
Notice and opportunity for County input “shall be given at the earliest possible stage of the federal and/or state governments' contemplation or consideration of a particular course of action with regard to land use plans, actions, or decisions affecting land use in Siskiyou County and such notice shall be given with sufficient specificity and prior to any psychological momentum having been developed with regard to the particular plan, action, or decision.“
“All federal and state agencies shall inform the County of Siskiyou, or its designee, of all pending, contemplated or proposed actions affecting local communities, citizens, or affecting County policy, and shall, if requested by the County, coordinate the planning and implementation of those actions with the County or its designee(s). Such notification shall include a detailed description of the proposed plan, procedure, rule, guideline, or amendment sufficient to fully inform lay persons of its intent and effects, including the effects on the resources, environment, customs, culture, and economic stability of the County of Siskiyou.”
This has not led to increased impact analysis or County involvement in federal planning and project development either. We continue to bring the code to the attention of the various federal agencies to no avail. Recently, we were told by one District Ranger that they did not have the staff or budget to analyze social and economic impacts. We are now paying a consultant to develop our options and have called a series of meetings with the Forest Service to see if we can do something to improve the local projects we are seeing and are not seeing come forth.
At a recent workshop, I heard a presentation given by the Bureau of Land Management citing the 2002 Memos from James Connaughton, CEQ Chair:
• Indicating that CEQ regulations mandate that Federal agencies prepare NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) analyses and documentation "in cooperation with State and local governments" and other agencies with jurisdiction by law or special expertise; and
• Emphasizing the importance of local government establishing formal “cooperating agency status” or participating in interdisciplinary NEPA teams.
These seem to be on the right track, but none of the federal agencies that we deal with on a regular basis seem aware of it. Also, although formal cooperating agency status sounds good, small rural counties lack the staff and funding to participate on that level with any frequency. I would think that the federal agencies in our area should have enough instructions from us about what types of impact analysis should be routinely included in their NEPA document and considered when formulating plans and projects.
It would be my suggestion that there be a meeting of the minds including representatives from local government to see if we can all get on the same page about what coordination and cooperation should look like. If we continue the way we have been, it is tantamount to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM Pacific
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