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MYTH VS. FACT: FARMING ON THE REFUGE LEASE LANDS
May 25, 2004

Myth: "Lease land farming pollutes the refuge with toxic chemicals."

 

FACT: After years of study, there has not been one shred of evidence to suggest pesticide use on the lease lands is detrimental to wildlife. California has the strictest pesticide regulations in the nation. And 90% of the pesticides registered for use in California, are disallowed on the lease lands. In fact, the previous Klamath Refuge Manager once stated, "we have done all sorts of monitoring . . . we have not found a smoking gun."

 

Myth: "Removing crops creates additional water for the refuges".

 

FACT: First, consider that the California lease lands consume less than 2% of the water generated in the entire Basin. It is true that row crops consume somewhat more water than grain crops and less than alfalfa. However, due to the design and location of the lease lands in the Klamath Project delivery system, water used on the Tule Lake lease lands consists entirely of return flows or drainage from the private lands to the north. This means that a minimal amount of water utilized for irrigation of the lease lands is actually diverted from Upper Klamath Lake specifically for use on these lands. As a consequence, irrigation on the lease lands has little or no effect on the availability of water for fall flooding on the Lower Klamath NWR. Moreover, the refuges benefit from the high priority water rights of agriculture. If any "savings" were created, under state law that water would likely go to other, higher priority uses.

 

Myth: "The Fish and Wildlife Service has to decide whether to manage these lands for geese, herons and eagles or for potatoes, onions and alfalfa."

 

FACT: Agriculture and wildlife management is not an either-or proposition. In fact, the opposite is true. Migrating waterfowl depend upon the cereal grains that are planted on 75% of the acreage of the lease lands, as required by federal law, for food and habitat. The row crops – the "potatoes, onions and alfalfa" of which environmental activists speak – can be planted on not more than 25% of the total lease land acreage. This is not a conflict, but a mutually beneficial relationship.

 

Myth: "Farming is entirely inconsistent with wildlife management."

 

FACT: According to the California Waterfowl Association, "[f]or nearly 100 years, farmers and ranchers of the Klamath Basin have coexisted with immense populations of wildlife. Many wildlife species, especially waterfowl, are familiar visitors to their highly productive farms and ranches. Klamath Basin agriculture provides a veritable nursery for wildlife."

 

Myth: "The lease land program is inconsistent with the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act."

 

FACT: A coalition of environmental groups raised similar arguments several years ago in Federal District Court, arguing that crops grown, pesticide use, extensive water use and poor water quality make this program incompatible with waterfowl purposes. The court rejected those arguments outright, upholding the Fish and Wildlife Service’s determination that the lease land program is entirely consistent and compatible with waterfowl management.

 

What is true is that if the ONRC recommendations were to be implemented, they would cause further economic hardship to Klamath Basin farmers, who are still struggling in the wake of the 2001 water shut off.

 

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Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific


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