Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.



Klamath Watershed Conference

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Bob Chadwick, Consensus Associates

Opened the conference this morning with a few words of wisdom:

"Think about being different and stretch your minds." "Dance with the girl you got; if you dance well, you’ll get the girl you want."


Session One:

Mike Connelly, Executive Director, Klamath Basin Ecosystem Foundation

(Mike will draw on over a decade’s experience in collaborative, community based conservation in the Klamath Basin to demonstrate why it is important that our approaches to addressing environmental issues be broadened to include the social and cultural sciences, as well as the ecological and biological sciences.)

Mike started out telling stories about the history of the Connelly family and farm. Spoke about Ben Wright, a dandy from the late 19th century that engaged Native Americans in negotiations about treaties, arrange for parties to celebrate the treaties and then either have the food poisoned or the local military surround the party and have all the Native American’s killed. After he came to the Klamath Basin, he was involved with the Klamath and Modoc Tribes and in this way, killed Captain Jack’s father. One of the reasons Captain Jack was so pissed off at the time.

A creek that flows through the Connelly property was named for old Ben Wright.

"It’s the stories that connect the people to this place, that makes us care about and stick to the land. This territory is me and I’m it."

Dealing with science driven issues, "applying to science to give us the answers and we’re just not getting there."

After the industrial revolution, it became possible to over use the resources but it was soon realized that we were messing the place up. The government realized this and passed laws like the Forest Organic Act to protect the resources from the "progressive era" which enabled us to move forward using science. It happened everywhere.

"Natural resource science has been pushed by policy and bureaucracy and I think it has lagged behind other sciences because of being driven by policy and bureaucracy."

What is it that connects us to the land? "We need to create places and spaces for people to get together and really talk about what the really important things are to each of us. We need to understand each other and the way we each understand the land."

"Meeting on the river bank and talking about the family, his daddy, that cave, that tree; the stories help us share information about each other."


Session Two:

People of the Watershed – Getting to meet and hear family histories

Mike Bryan – Etna, California

Jeff Mitchell, Chiloquin, Oregon

Marion Palmer, Klamath Falls, Oregon

Keith Wilkinson, Myrtle Point, Oregon

Ron Reed, Orleans, California

Moderator: Ron Hathaway, Oregon State University Extension Service

Left to right: Jeff Mitchell, Keith Wilkinson, Ron Reed, Mike Bryan, and Marion Palmer

Mike Bryan from Etna, California spoke first. He’s the 3rd generation owner of the family ranch on the Scott River and the 5th generation (his grandkids) also lives there. His great-grandfather purchased the land and they raise livestock and more hay then they need so they have some to sell each year. The ranch takes water directly from the river and has irrigation wells that pump water up to the high ground.

In the 1920’s his family helped dig the Scott irrigation ditch and he is a past member of the Scott Valley Irrigation District board.

Mr. Bryan has noted that the Scott River has changed over the past 150 years.

Jeff Mitchell of the Klamath and Modoc Tribes explained that there were 5 subgroups of the Klamath and named them using the Klamath dialect. He also named the different villages in the Klamath dialect and then went on to name them in English: Klamath Marsh, Keno, Barkley Springs, Lost River, Sprague River, etc.

Why is the sucker so important to his people?

Jeff told the old Indian legend of how the Creator saved the people and created the suckers. In the spring of the year, there was a great hunger in the world; people were dying at Barkley Springs (Hagelstien Park). The village prayed to the Creator for help to survive and He heard their prayers. He was sitting up above Barkley Springs on a rock and a large snake appeared. The Creator slew the snake and cut it up into little pieces and threw them into the lake to create the suckers.

Suckers were important for food in the spring when stored food was gone or very low. For the Klamath’s, these fish gave life.

The Creator also gave the Klamath’s rules to live by:

  1. Live in good health
  2. Family – have and raise a family – raise children
  3. Learn – continue to learn all your life
  4. Happiness – carry a smile on your face
  5. Help one another
  6. Strengthen your spirit – your inner spirit
  7. Treat others with kindness

"I don’t like what’s been going on in our community, all the fighting. During the reservation times, we were a community that worked and played together. But it doesn’t feel like a community today."

Marion Palmer, farmer in the Klamath Project explained that he came to the Basin in 1932 with his father who was a WWI vet and won a homestead. Mr. Palmer won his own homestead in 1948 and at that time "were we’re standing now was a sheep pasture" and it was the height of the depression.

Why did the homesteaders come to the Basin? "They wanted to become independent and to farm again."

During the early years, there was mostly livestock raising because there wasn’t any money to buy farming equipment. "Excitement in the early days was watching the runaway teams."

In the early 1930’s, there were no roads. Some homesteaders worked for the NRA in the Lava Beds or building roads. In 1936, we got electricity and by 1938 the roads had improved and more farms were developed and livestock raising declined.

Marion told the story about one dairy farmer who was so excited about getting electricity that he went out and bought an electric milking machine. The first time he hooked the cows up to it and turned it on, the cows went crazy . . . they’d never heard a noise like that before nor had they ever had something mechanical attached to their udders. It seems the dairyman didn’t get much milk from his cows the next few days. And if that barn was still standing, you might be able to still see the cow manure and hoof prints on the ceiling.

During the homesteading of the WWII vets, (1947, 1948, 1949) things were much different but the values didn’t change.

Today, there’s the same amount of land in farming but we now have fewer farmers and people because farmers today can’t make a living on small acreage’s.

Keith Wilkinson of Myrtle Point is a retired river guide and past president of the Port of Brookings Commission, a member of the Pacific Salmon Commission and was one of the architects of the Salmon and Trout Enhancement Commission (STEP).

He is mostly concerned with the impacts land use has on the commercial ocean fishery.

Ron Reed is a cultural biologist with the Karuk Tribe. He spoke about the elders of the Tribe and how important ceremonies are to the Tribe; especially the world renewal ceremony in the spring called the 1st Salmon Ceremony. This ceremony insures that the Indians will have the fish forever.

He blames management practices on the middle river for Tribal elders not living as long as they used to. There’s not enough fish in the river to keep the elders well and alive. Now they only harvest from the fall run of salmon, not the spring run of chinook.

There are 3,000 members of the tribe and they only caught 1,000 fish last year – their culture depends on the salmon.

Back in 1996, Mr. Reed became a Medicine Man and he learned that "everything on this earth with life has a right to that life."

"To get this thing done, we need to walk together."

Mr. Reed also spoke about the studies and restoration projects of the Karuk Tribes: flow studies, watershed restoration, fuel reduction, fish passage, road decommissioning, and noxious weeds.

Their fuel reduction plan uses fire to remove the small saplings that suck up ground water – lack of thinning means less water in the river.

Mr. Reed also said, "It’s not fair to point the finger at Upper Basin Ag for all the problems in the lower river." But each year, we’re getting less and less water. We need to do more things in the middle basin that will take a lot of pressure off the upper basin.

Lamprey and eels in the river are not on the radar screen because there is no commercial use for them but the Karuk’s depend on them for food too.

Ron Hathaway – Moderator:

"Talk and talk and talk and talk until the talking starts."

"Go to meetings, just go to meetings – that’s the easy part. The really hard part is to step out of the comfort zone and really start to talk, get to know and trust others."


Session Three:

People of the Watershed Continued

Facilitated small group conversations and personal stories

Moderator: Bob Chadwick

My group included the following:

  1. Akimi King, USF&WS Biologist of Japanese decent whose grandfather was interned at Tulelake.
  2. Toz Soto, Karuk fish biologist from a family of drift sport fishermen on the Salmon and Klamath Rivers who now lives in Somes Bar, California.
  3. Tim Shornburg, a friend of Jeff Mitchell’s from Medford who works as a professional salesman and mortgage broker.
  4. Maureen (no last name) who teaches Business and Economics at OIT and has helped set up the Environment Studies program.
  5. Gwen Taylor who moved to Klamath Falls from Medford last July. She was born and raised in Iowa where her family homesteaded. She works in the Ranchland Resource and Soil Conservation field for the NRCS.

Session Four:

Collaborative Communities

Donald Snow, Professor of Environmental Humanities, Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington

Jack Shipley, Applegate Partnership, Grants Pass, Oregon

Moderator: Mike Connelly

(This presentation will provide general information and analysis regarding the emergence of collaborative, community-based natural resource management in the American West over the last two decades. Case studies will be presented detailing the lessons and successes of working collaboratively to resolve natural resource issues.)

Don Snow was the director of Northern Lights Institute in Missoula, Montana back in the 1970’s. This group worked on ways to bring advisories to round table discussions to obtain results.

They worked on the problems of the Clark Fork River that concerned a MT water law that leaves water in a river for "future use."

When the state of Montana moves to "reserve water," it always brings up problems. Local people from each side of the controversy got together and worked out an agreement and then took it to the MT State government and had it ratified. The plan worked.

Points Mr. Snow made:

  1. Economically, the West is shifting from a resource economy based on the extraction of raw materials to a service and information economy
  2. The West is urbanizing
  3. The West is diversifying
  4. Original ideas of conservation as a "gospel of efficiency" gave way to ideas linking conservation to preservation in which the ideal of efficiency is less relevant.
  5. "We the people are supposed to be in control"
  6. Rule by proceduralism came to be the norm, the "procedural republic"
  7. Environmentalist strategies fled from the legislature to the courts – from lawmaking to law enforcement
  8. Alternative Dispute Resolution has become the norm
    1. ADR generated by disputing parties themselves
    2. By professional dispute resolution centers
    3. ADR mandated by the courts

Collaboration doesn’t work in all settings but can work in certain settings with the correct leadership.

Jack Shipley, Applegate Partnership


The Applegate Partnership is a community-based project involving industry, conservation groups, natural resource agencies, and residents cooperating to encourage and facilitate the use of natural resource principles that promote ecosystem health and diversity.

Through community involvement and education, this partnership supports management of all land within the watershed in a manner that sustains natural resources and that will, in turn, contribute to economic and community stability within the Applegate Valley.


When timber harvesting started in the Applegate Valley, it turned into a war zone. There are 7,400 private property owners in the valley and the rest of the land is owned by the USFS, BLM and the State of Oregon.

Mining really changed the ecosystem of the Applegate. Miners would set fire to the brush and tress to get rid of them and at this time, there are no trees in the valley that are over 150 years old.

What is the Partnership doing to save the Applegate Valley?

They have over 30 monitoring stations in the valley that the USFS and F&WS use. They give away free trees to property owners. They own and operate the only solar powered fish screen in the state, work on road removal projects, and work to keep farming viable in the valley.

They’ve written an Applegate Fire Plan that is a bit folksy and the federal agencies don’t know how to take it.

When they first organized, they distrusted the government and the media and they still do. But they were asked if they wanted to become a governmental advisory group and they refused.


Session Five:

On-the-ground Accomplishments

Introduction – Geoff Huntington, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board Director

Jim Villeponteaux, Salmon River Restoration Council

Scott Bauer, California Conservation Corps

Moderator: Alice Kilham

(On-the-ground accomplishments, restoration, have occurred throughout the watershed. This session will host a panel who will share their organization’s efforts. Followed by the opportunity for participant’s to share their accomplishments.)

Geoff Huntington:

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) is a relatively new state agency. They receive $25 million a year from the Oregon Lottery to invest in restoration projects all over the state. Since its inception, they have worked on over 600 different projects.

Some are fish passage, riparian enhancement, wetlands enhancement, acquiring land through conservation easements, and upland erosion control.

In the Upper Klamath Basin they have spent some money but not as much as they’d like. Right now they are conducting a study of Junipers affects on water tables.

With Ducks Unlimited, they’ve worked on restoration in the Klamath Wildlife Refuges and the Miller Island Wildlife Refuge.

Jim Villeponteaux:

The Salmon River Restoration Council is a non-profit group that started in 1992. http://www.srrc.org/


The Salmon River watershed is 480,000 square miles and gold was found in the 1890’s. During the mining boom, there were over 20 little towns in the canyon and today the population on the North Fork is only 250.

Major projects:

There are over 900 miles of roads on the north and south forks of the Salmon River and the Council is working on decommissioning some roads but doing erosion work on all essential roads.

With grants from the CA Fish and Game, the Council has started a Watershed Education Program that goes into the schools and teaches about the watershed.

Water temperature monitoring for the Tribes and the Forest Service.

Monitoring the flow gauge at the mouth of the Salmon River – it’s been in place since 1921.

Fall chinook carcass and redd survey that’s been ongoing since 1994.

The Council puts a screw trap at the mouth of the Salmon every year to see what’s coming out of the river. Using this trap, they’ve proved that green sturgeons are spawning in the Salmon.

Every year, the Council does a spring chinook count which has asked the question of why have the spring chinook stopped going past the Salmon and on up the Klamath River.

They have tracked fire damage to the watershed since 1987. And are conducting a fuel reduction study.

Scott Bauer:

Since 1986, the Del Norte Center Watershed Restoration Program, in partnership with numerous state and federal agencies and private landowners, has worked to enhance and restore California’s coastal salmon and steelhead habitat. Over a 17 year span, this partnership has worked in approximately one hundred watersheds from the Oregon border to Humboldt Bay to improve over 250 stream miles by modifying 100 barriers to fish passage, stabilizing over 5,000 feet of stream bank, installing more than 1,250 fish habitat structures, and planting 500,000 trees. In addition, corps members have participated in tens of thousands of hours of watershed restoration classes put on by College of the Redwoods. This program has not only helped restore our threatened runs of salmon and steelhead, but also enabled us to educate well over a thousand corps members in what it means to be conservation minded California citizens. http://www.ccc.ca.gov/cccweb/DISTRICT/KLAMATH/KLAMATH.HTM

Successful projects:

Hunter Creek Stream bank Stabilization Project was started in 1998 and the permit process took over a year. Hunter Creek is one of the first creeks flowing into the Klamath River just up from the mouth.

Previous stream bank stabilization was done with over 40 car bodies before the CCC project. And there were no fences to keep the cattle out. The original creek had been channelized and part of the project was to change it back to a meandering stream.

The project also included removing the car bodies and replacing them with log and boulder structures and to create deep pools with slow moving water. The very first car they removed lost its engine block and it and oil spilled into the creek while a Fish and Wildlife official stood by and watched.

The whole creek was fenced and the new bank restoration created new habitat. The project was finished in 1999.

CCC has recorded a 240% increase in salmon and steelhead rearing in the creek.

During the fish die-off of 2002, CCC and local landowners noticed over 500 adult salmon and steelhead appearing in Hunter Creek to get into cool and oxygenated water. As soon as the river cleared up, the fish moved out and went on up the Klamath River.

Moon Creek: Removed 5 different log jams that were 20 feet high, 60 feet wide and 350 feet long consisting of over 200 logs. Fish were stopped at the first log jam and many miles of the creek was going unused for spawning and rearing. CCC removed the major log jams, but left some logs in the creek for rearing habitat. CCC is hoping that the coho will return this fall.

Ahpah Creek: In a 1987 flood event, some of the stream bank fell into the creek and blocked fish passage approximately 4000 yards from any road. CCC packed in all supplies to build step pools and ramps over a 500 foot reach. But all their work was not helping fish passage. CCC went back in 2003 and redid the work and lowered the ramps and step pools to less then 4 feet this past winter. Coho are now spawning up about the site.

The CCC is thought of as a "grunt work force" but that’s not what they are. They also do project monitoring and post project monitoring to make sure the work accomplished the stated goals.

The CCC has restored over 200 miles of streams in the small tributaries of the Klamath River, built 1200 structures for fish passage, planted 450,000 trees and have done over 1,250 in-stream restoration projects.

Because of the $15 million budget crunch in California, the Del Norte Center of the CCC has lost a lot of funding. Bauer doesn’t know if the Center will stay open or not.




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