Tags: Endangered | Species | Act | Under | Congressional | Scrutiny

Endangered Species Act Under Congressional Scrutiny

Wednesday, 09 May 2001 12:00 AM

Thousands of people gathered earlier this week in Klamath Falls, Ore., to protest the ESA and the way it is being applied. Farmers say

"We are very concerned about the situation in Klamath Falls. In fact, the House Resource Committee is scheduling a hearing in Klamath falls," committee Communications Director Marnie Funk said Wednesday.

According to Funk, the committee is working with the offices of Reps. Wally Herger, R-Calif., and Greg Walden, R-Ore., "find the best date for that hearing."

An estimated 13,000 people from all walks of life gathered in Klamath Falls Monday to support farmers who say their livelihood and culture are being endangered by the Endangered Species Act, dubbed the Endangered Farmers Act by some.

Event organizers said they had hope the large turnout would bring national attention to their plight and result in state and federal legislative action.

As part of Monday's rally, a "bucket brigade" of protesters dumped a symbolic 50 buckets of water into a dry irrigation canal that until recently sustained agriculture in the Klamath Basin.

The day-long rally was staged to protest court rulings and federal bureaucratic actions that have, for the first time in nearly 100 years, turned off the irrigation water that is vital to the 1,400 family-run farms and 250,000 acres of cropland and pasture in the basin.

The court rulings determined that, under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act, the water rights of three species of endangered and threatened fish - two suckers and the coho salmon - have priority over the farmers' long-standing water rights.

The rulings stemmed from litigation brought by environmental activist groups including Center for Biological Diversity - a group out of Tucson, Ariz. - and Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, formerly Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund.

These and other activist groups have filed similar lawsuits throughout the country under cover of the Endangered Species Act. Earthjustice, after suing the government on behalf of the coho salmon, submitted a bill to the Justice Department for $439,053 to cover its expenses.

This is the type of lawsuit - which has cost American taxpayers millions of dollars over the last several years - for which President Bush has asked Congress to suspend funding for one year.

Monday's rally featured speeches from various politicians who attended the event. Federal legislators from the Klamath Basin, which encompasses several counties in northern California as well as southern Oregon, included Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif.

Smith told the crowd that he planned to introduce a proposal to reform the Endangered Species Act.

That, according to Klamath Water Users Association Executive Director Tessa Studedli, is the long-term goal of Monday's rally.

Studedli said the water users' association, one of the rally's primary organizers, hoped national coverage of the event would show the rest of the country "what a detrimental effect the ESA has had on our community." She said the ESA needed to be reformed so that the rights of animals and plants "do not override human rights."

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Thousands of people gathered earlier this week in Klamath Falls, Ore., to protest the ESA and the way it is being applied. Farmers say We are very concerned about the situation in Klamath Falls. In fact, the House Resource Committee is scheduling a hearing in Klamath...
Endangered,Species,Act,Under,Congressional,Scrutiny
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2001-00-09
Wednesday, 09 May 2001 12:00 AM
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