Suckers show sign of recovery
The Lost River sucker, the fish at the center of the 2001 Klamath Basin water crisis, recovered enough to be reclassified from “endangered” to “threatened,” federal officials said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its recommendation Thursday following a mandated five-year review of both the Lost River and shortnose suckers. The review concluded the shortnose sucker should remain classified as endangered.
Threatened species are at risk of becoming endangered within the foreseeable future while endangered species are in danger of extinction.
Klamath Basin water management is not expected to change with reclassification.
Greg Addington, Klamath Water Users Association executive director, was pleased with the decision. The group represents irrigation, drainage and improvement districts within the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Project.
“This should be good news for everyone,” Addington said. “This action shows us that the support and advocacy for restoration activities and funding is doing some good.”
Luther Horsley, a Klamath Basin farmer and water users president, agreed. From page A1
“There has been a significant investment in conservation,” he said. “It’s nice to know we are starting to see some benefits from those actions.”
But the announcement brought immediate criticism from the Klamath Tribes.
Lost River and shortnose suckers are culturally important to the Tribes, and members traditionally harvested them until fish populations began to decline.
In a statement, Tribal chairman Joe Kirk said leaders were not consulted and remain concerned about the Lost River sucker’s viability. He also was disappointed the decision came while the Tribes and other Klamath Basin stakeholders are working to resolve Klamath River issues, including the future of four hydroelectric dams, coastal fisheries and irrigation and tribal needs.
“To have something of this importance dropped on us without consultation while we are trying to settle Basin resource issues is a disservice to everyone,” Kirk said.
Curt Mullis, field supervisor with the agency’s Klamath Falls office, said Fish and Wildlife officials usually meet with tribal leaders per treaty agreements, but efforts to meet the past year were either not answered or delayed by tribal leaders.
Calls to tribal leaders by the Herald and News Thursday were not returned by press time.
Threat of lawsuit
Mullis indicated t he issue was complicated by threat of a lawsuit by five Klamath Project irrigators, who felt the review process was dragging.
The legal action stemmed from another lawsuit after the 2001 water crisis that sought the removal of the two fish species from the endangered species list entirely. Officials settled the lawsuit by agreeing to conduct the five-year review.
More work ahead
Addington said there is still work to be done.
“This doesn’t take anyone off the hook,” he said. “We have to continue to work with the federal agencies and our neighbors, particularly the Klamath Tribes, to find lasting solutions and to meet everyone’s needs.”
The reclassif ication is not final and needs to be approved by the federal departments of interior and commerce.
Mullis said the reclassification is not expected to change lake levels in Upper Klamath Lake or flows for the Klamath River, Mullis said.