Water discord: Upper Basin ranchers seek solution
FORT KLAMATH — Rancher Randall Kizer believes many Upper
Klamath Basin landowners and the Klamath Tribes both want
what’s best for the land, from which both draw their
The Tribes recent call for
water has shut off access for the cattlemen to the Wood
River, which meanders through their ranches. Many fear a
severe economic impact from the shutoff.
serves as president of the Landowner’s Entity, a consortium
of Upper Basin landowners, and as a member of the Klamath
Critical Habitat board of directors.
others aren’t as much in agreement with the Tribes about the
details surrounding access to water in the Upper Basin, or
on the future of their partnership working together.
“Sometimes, what’s right for the land can vary on the
outcome you want,” Kizer said in an interview at his
homestead in May. “Ag wants the outcome to make a living,
but if we don’t do what’s right for the land, we’re not
going to be able to make a living.
we’re fighting over is who gets water and how much,” he
is one of many ranchers concerned for the future of the
Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement (UKBCA), which
is a partnership between the Klamath Tribes and Upper Basin
the pact, ranchers agree to improve the riparian areas of
the river for fish habitat, put up fencing to keep cattle
out of the river and give up some water rights to benefit
the river. In return, they get the water they need to
Tribe has asked that the UKBCA be terminated. It claims the
agreement is linked to the much larger Klamath Basin
Restoration Agreement (KBRA) which has failed to pass in
Congress and was the financial linchpin to both agreements.
believes a settlement with the Tribes and the Landowner’s
Entity is still possible, and hopes to continue finding a
path toward an agreement.
Without the UKBCA, Kizer believes the landowner’s group, an
organization formed to oversee the day-to-day implementation
of the Upper Klamath Basin agreement, could easily dissolve.
the glue that keeps everything together,” Kizer said.
“There’s no reason our agreement has to end. KBRA is gone,
we understand that. This isn’t about fish. This is about
something totally different.”
Klamath Tribes sent a letter to the Department of the
Interior asking for the termination of the agreement earlier
this year, saying that it wasn’t meant to stand alone
outside the KBRA.
Interior has not ruled on the request, according to Kizer,
but he anticipates that it may happen soon.
had to have a riparian management agreement and we had to
have a water use agreement,” Kizer said. “Those are both
spelled out within the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive
Agreement. Both of them had issues that we just couldn’t
quite come to resolving.”
Mediation on agreement failed in February, though Kizer
emphasizes he believes more could have been done to continue
believes the agreement could not only stand on its own in
terms of retiring irrigation land and riparian management,
but could be a foundation to build on a new settlement.
can’t settle this if we’re not talking,” Kizer said.
“They’re going to lose miles and miles of riparian area
because people are going to open their gates (to cattle) …
they’re not going to manage their riparian area.”
reiterated he believes members of the Klamath Tribes
true meaningful healing has to come from a basis of trust,
and my experience with landowners is they’re a pretty
trustworthy bunch,” Kizer said.
who wrote a guest opinion in the Herald and News recently
inviting the Tribes to continue discussions, said he has
received no feedback from the Tribes about a request to
will do what we have to further our cause,” Kizer said. “I
think all the landowners really believe that a settlement is
the best way to go ... and if we’re going to live here and
work together here, everyone needs to feel like they’re
getting something out of it.”
Worries over water call
KLAMATH — Driving along Weed Road that connects to Loosley
Road — named for Kizer’s great-grandfather — he points out
the window of his pickup at the grass in his pastures. He
expects the color to change from lush green to “crispy”
brown by July if he cannot irrigate with water from the Wood
the “call” on water by the Klamath Tribes validated by the
Oregon Department of Water Resources in early May, Kizer
worries he may lose 50 percent of his revenue from leasing
his acreage this year if nothing changes.
Randall normally irrigates his 245 acres with water from the
Wood River to feed his cattle during the summer.
is the first year that I haven’t had at least one
irrigation,” Kizer said. “When they made the initial call,
we still had standing water everywhere.”
concerned about how he’ll continue to feed the 250 head of
cattle during the summer, which graze his pastureland.
already almost a month behind in getting them here,” Kizer
said of his cattle, which graze in California outside of
summer months. “We’re either going to have to have fewer
cattle or shorter periods of time (grazing),” Kizer added.
pulls his pickup into the driveway of the ranch house that
he and wife, Jeanie, call home. The two-story home sits on
the same piece of property established by his great-great
grandfather in 1872. He took over the land when his mother,
Maxine, was still alive.
soil is rich in nitrogen, with what Randall calls “volcanic”
water from Upper Klamath Lake.
down a foot or two into the unfertilized soil, and he’s
assured one will find plentiful water.
water and soil mixture grows really good grass,” Kizer said.
A long family history on the homestead
KLAMATH — While sipping coffee and sampling homemade sweet
rolls one early May morning, Randall and Jeanie Kizer leaf
through old photographs of the family, newspaper clippings
and letters from the Department of the Interior from past
share stories about the joys of watching the ever-changing
world of nature surrounding their Fort Klamath ranch house,
including spontaneous visits at the window from a curious
returned to live on the homestead in recent years after
living in the Eugene area, but his family has held claim to
the land since his great-grandfather, John Loosley,
established it in 1872. It’s where Kizer he spent his
formative years while attending Chiloquin High School.
on a walking tour of the Fort Klamath cemetery, Kizer spoke
about Loosley as he stopped at his and his wife, Lucy’s,
Loosley came to the U.S. from Britain. He first worked at a
mill in Chicago before traveling out West by horse, Kizer
said. He followed the gold trail to California, and then to
Jacksonville, Ore., before settling in Fort Klamath.
Kizers rebuilt the homestead in the early 2000s and used
wood from the old house to build a cabinet and metal counter
tops from the old barn inside the home.
couple host annual reunions at the home each June, which
Kizer attended in all the years he lived and worked for a
railroad in the Eugene area.
was raised in the original homestead as was his mother, the
late Maxine Kizer, who still ran facets of the homestead
until her death in 2009.
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