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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Amara,
    A friend forwarded me the article dealing chiefly with the Prebles Jumping Mouse and the possible harm that may have been done on private land to habitat for the mouse.  I really have no difficulty in believing that this did happen.  In fact I will wager that if you were to look, that the same thing has likely happened to any listed species on any private property in about the same proportions discussed in the context of the Prebles Jumping Mouse.
 
    There is a statement in the article that I have to say simply astounds me nearly beyond the limits of my recently expanded disdain for modern conservation and environmental movements. I'll get to the statement in a minute, so bear with me until then. 
 
     I am a farmer and I have a Masters Degree in Biology.  My Masters work was done with the Deer Mice Peromyscus maniculatus, and P. truei.  I do not intend to tout my education to show that I am somehow a superior sort of biologist.  I simply state it as means to show I am not ignorant in the field of field biology, and that I have at least some small degree of an ability to recognize science, nothing more. 
 
     I find it ever difficult to even tell people I have an advanced Biology Degree.  There are two reasons for this, both of which relate to my above mentioned disdain, so they are germane here.  The first is that I find it increasingly difficult to stomach shenanigans of people, mainly in federal employment, who pass themselves off as Biologists.  The second reason is the disdain that is apparent from people when they find out that I might be one of "those damned biologists."  This last feature really angers me and it should anger anyone with a degree. 
 
     At this point I get to the "astounding statement."  Actually there are two statements, quoted verbatim from the text of the article. 
 
1. Landowners were more likely to have improved the mouse's habitat if they valued nature or had gotten information from conservation organizations.
 
2. Landowners were more likely to have destroyed the mouse's habitat if they depended economically on agriculture, or thought that landowners should not be responsible for species conservation.
    The first statement first.  This is the one that astounds me and is, quite frankly the one that points directly at the problem we have in this country with the growing urban-rural disconnect.  The problem here is the implied belief that private property owners 1) do not value nature or that 2) they needed information from conservation organizations. 
 
     I guess the real problem I have here is that if this really has to be explained, that it probably cannot be explained.  I personally know of no one who values nature or the piece of nature that exists on our farm more than I, or the other members of my family do.  This is true of everyone I know who farms as a primary means of economic survival. 
 
     I realize that there is a certain segment of private property development that likely does not share that sentiment and I would not care to argue with you over that point.  However you make a serious mistake when disdain for private property ownership in general paints all of the landowners in the former circumstance with the same can of paint that fits those in the latter. 
 
     Actually we all have gotten so much "information" (read misinformation if you will) from conservation organizations that we are all literally sick to death from it.  More information will not help.  It will not help unless and until conservation organizations start being truthful and begin to rely on solid information based on sound science.  We may disagree here, but overall the science being touted in the ESA circus we are living out here in rural America, is pretty flimsy. 
 
     It sure is here in the Klamath Basin.  We have that view backed in large measure by the National Academy of Science. 
 
     It will not help unless and until conservation organizations acquire some people skills and cease on burdening judges with making decisions that they are not qualified to make.  Natural resource management that is run by Judges and Lawyers and the Conservationists who use them will ultimately fail.  That to me is a self evident truth.
 
    Second statement. I will not argue the point that those habitats that occur on property owned by individuals involved directly in agriculture have likely suffered a disproportionate degree of damage.  There is a vicious circle here. 
 
     As constraints on agriculture increase and as prices deteriorate, more and more land has to be put into production, or production has to be improved.  When economic failure occurs the once profitable farm or ranch is up for development and that parcel has passed into development. While I said that I and everyone I know value nature on their farms, many are faced with the cold hard reality (which in my experience with them, Conservation groups neither share nor even understand) of economic fact.  We have to survive economically.  We have to pay taxes (nobody withholds from our checks for us), pay the mortgage, pay the bills, send the kids to school, etc. (Yes, I realize you have to do that too, but you don't have to do it from what you can produce on your land like we do.) 
 
     The single utmost over riding DISASTER that can occur on private property today is for either the USFWS or NOAA Fisheries to show up on your place and designate it, or part of it, as critical habitat for some critter or another. Keep in mind that they may well show up at my door because some conservation/environmental organization sued for protection. To that end I would not willing allow any biologists on our property, unless they had a court order served by the sheriff, to do any surveys for endangered species. 
 
     If left to my self, I would apply for some grant money to do some conservation work.  However, if it were successful, and some threatened or endangers critter showed up, it would be disastrous for me. This is where Shoot, Shovel and Shut up comes from.
 
     Biologists and conservation organizations, as well as government bureaucracies, have done a remarkably efficient job of making enemies of the people they need to befriend in order for significant conservation work to proceed.  Keep in mind that a farmer or rancher who is in a profitable economic situation will be far better able to spend some money on conservation and apply for some grant money if critical habitat designations were not so onerous.  Get one of those and the property really isn't yours.  You can't use it for production, but you still have to pay taxes and mortgage etc.
 
    I really don't know for sure where you fit in the disconnect we see, but if you choose to involve yourself in Natural Resource Management, my advice to make a serious effort to befriend some actual landowners and begin to try and understand where they come from.
 
Steve Cheyne
Klamath Falls, OR  978603
 

 

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