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Tri County Courier by Kehn Gibson, staff Writer

All sides agree on peer review
posted to KBC July 25, 2004

Fittingly, two demonstrations that began on opposite ends of Klamath Falls converged at the Ross Ragland Theater Saturday, and in a prearranged plan mingled to listen to speakers on all sides of the issues speak.

While the position of agriculturalists was clear — the uneven application of ESA mandates devastated their communities in 2001 — the position of the Klamath Tribes was not that different.

“I support amending the ESA, but doing something to the ESA will not solve all the problems,” said Allen Foreman, chair of the Klamath Tribes. “We are hear to remind the federal government of their Tribal Trust responsibilities.”

Troy Fletcher, executive director of the Yurok Tribe, echoed Foreman.

“If the federal government had kept their promises to the Tribes, we wouldn’t be talking about the ESA,” Fletcher said. “If you protect Tribal rights, the species in the Basin will survive.”

As the two groups mingled in front of the theater, several out-of-towners wearing limp salmon hats — “That fish is beyond help,” said Bonanza’s Frank Hammerich of one dreadlocked salmon hat wearer — began to catcall speakers, yet peer pressure yielded a generally polite response.

The politeness continued as the crowd filed into the auditorium to listen as 13 speakers gave testimony to Rep. Ken Calvert’s Water and Power subcommittee of the House Resources Committee.

Calvert opened the hearing by noting that, of the 1,700 species listed since 1973, only seven have been recovered.

“The ESA is a broken, tired program creating more hardship on those who are already caring for their land,” Calvert said.

There were several emotional moments in the testimony — one of the most wrenching provided by Tulelake’s Vernancio Hernandez, who lost his farm in 2001 and was recently told by one of his sons he will soon be deployed to Iraq — yet a telling moment was when Calvert took an informal poll of the 13-member panel regarding off-stream storage.

The panel, including Foreman, Fletcher, and several scientists, responded with yeses without exception. The rythm finally broke when it came to the Bureau of Reclamation’s Kirk Rodgers, who nearly choked on his affirmative answer.

At the end, all 13 agreed that off-stream storage was needed.

A second high point came after Rep. Greg Walden referenced the many instances of peer review being used in all types of government processes, and he asked for a poll on that question.

Again, the panel was unanimous in its support, yet the three federal agency representatives qualified their answers with cautions about delays and costs.

A discordant note sounded after Rep. John Doolittle’s pointed questioning about the non-consideration of people and their communities in ESA-related decisions.

“I am somewhat offended by the tone here,” said Foreman.

Doolittle apologized, noting the issues are “very complex.”

Walden said the amount of agreement between the diverse members of the panel was enlightening.

"We had general agreement on storage, and a general agreement on a peer review process,” Walden said. “I think that is the biggest thing I learned today.”

Doolittle agreed, saying, “For such a diverse group to agree on so many points was encouraging.”





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