Klamath crisis shows our lack of compromise,
sending industry, and now farming, overseas
Wednesday, May 9, 2001
IN MY OPINION, Laura A. Schroeder
Dick Wright / Columbus Dispatch
We are living on the brink of disaster. When life's issues are too messy,
our selfish culture forces the problem somewhere else rather than dealing
with the hard issues of balance.
If we cannot force the problem to another country, it is forced to the less
favorable environments within our own boundaries.
The Oregonian has published many stories about urban industry moving
out of Oregon, resulting in the loss of jobs and a loss to Oregon's overall
I think that Oregon and the United States have found that industry is too
messy. As a result, industry is forced into foreign countries that are more
than happy to have this boost to their economy and live with whatever
mess is created.
In other words: Instead of balancing the needs of industry and the
environment within the boundaries of our state and nation, our
unwillingness to compromise -- to the benefit of both industry and
environment -- simply forces the mess unto our neighbors, to the
detriment of the global environment. Instead of making things better, we
are making them worse.
Similarly, the largely urban populations of Oregon and the United States
have found agriculture too messy. Instead of attempting to balance the
needs of the environment and agriculture, we are simply on a path to force
agriculture offshore as well.
The Oregonian has ignored this alarming trend in its reporting of the
Klamath Basin calamity. With the lack of balance between endangered
species and agriculture, no water has been provided to 225,000 acres of
Oregon farmland. Laborers employed for decades in this three-county
farming area are leaving. School populations are being devastated by
out-migration. Families established on the land for more than three
generations are being split apart.
People are without hope, and depression is rising to dangerous levels.
There is genuine concern that some devastated by the loss of their
livelihood will commit suicide or that children will resort to expressing their
hopelessness by violent means. In addition, there are devastating and
consequential impacts to the environment, as habitat for ducks, geese,
deer and antelope, among others, is left dry.
In the Klamath region, the problem is messy indeed.
The federal court maintains it's too messy to order anything other than no
water allocations. The federal government finds it too messy to balance
competing interests in the face of urban pressure to enforce the
Endangered Species Act and policies to move agriculture "out of the
neighborhood." Gov. John Kitzhaber seeks to avoid dealing with the
messy problems of rural Oregon and does nothing.
At this point, the God Squad must be convened -- scientists empowered,
under law, to rule that the Endangered Species Act can be breached.
Kitzhaber must take the necessary steps so this federal action can take
place -- making some sort of sense out of this mess, where human lives
are at stake.
Laura A. Schroeder, a Portland water-law attorney, represents agricultural
interests in the West, including in the Klamath Basin.