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Forest Service tried to quash paper debunking Montana wildlife authority

Agriculture, Federal gov & land grabs, Forestry & USFS, Wildlife

The Westerner.blogspot.com

Monday, September 25, 2017

The U.S. Forest Service has disavowed a legal analysis it commissioned that showed federal land managers have given state wildlife departments more authority than they really possess. In June, the agency asked the University of Montana to remove the draft report five days after “Fish and Wildlife Management on Federal Lands: Debunking State Supremacy” appeared on the Bolle Center for People and Forest’s website. Three weeks later, it terminated a two-year contract with the center and its director, Martin Nie, citing the “provocative title” as a reason. “This is some of the most tedious, boring work I’ve ever done,” Nie told a group of UM students Wednesday. “That’s what’s amazing — how much controversy this has generated.” The beehive Nie and his colleagues whacked concerns who owns and controls wildlife in the nation: state fish and game departments or federal land managers. In 126 pages of Supreme Court citings, legislative history and case studies, the Bolle team argued that “the U.S. Constitution grants the federal government vast authority to manage its lands and wildlife resources … even when states object.” “The myth that ‘the states manage wildlife and federal land agencies only manage wildlife habitat’ is not only wrong from a legal standpoint but it leads to fragmented approaches to wildlife conservation, unproductive battles over agency turf, and an abdication of federal responsibility over wildlife,” the report stated. It found that claim “especially dubious when states assert ownership as a basis to challenge federal authority over wildlife on federal lands.” On August 30, Forest Service Deputy Chief for Research and Development Carlos Rodriguez-Franco wrote Nie another response. “The concerns which led to the termination … arose when a draft article, with a provocative title challenging state legal authorities, was placed on a public website without prior substantive comment from the Forest Service,” Rodriguez-Franco wrote. “(I)t became apparent that the work being conducted by the University was entering the realm of legal services — including interpreting the Constitution, laws and court cases as they pertain to the administration of Forest Service programs — rather than scientific research.” The Forest Service, he explained, was required by law to get its legal advice from the federal Office of General Counsel…more


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

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WOLF: Oregon Cattlemen elect to sue feds

Agriculture, Lawsuits, Wolves

Western Livestock Journal

wlj, 06-19-2017 » Page 1

Oregon Cattlemen elect to sue feds

At a mid-year meeting held in Pendleton on June 2, members of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) voted to move forward with a plan to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) over their continued failure to remove gray wolves from the federal endangered species list in portions of the state. While originally intended as a joint effort across all three West Coast states, Oregon is the only state currently moving forward with the suit.

Specifically, the planned lawsuit targets a 2013 proposed rule change by USFWS, in which they recommended removing the gray wolf from the endangered species list nationwide. While USFWS did find that wolves had recovered sufficiently in the U.S. to warrant delisting, the proposal quickly became mired in environmental lawsuits over wolves in the western Great Lakes region.

Except for Wyoming, where wolves were delisted earlier this year, wolves remain under protected status in much of the U.S., including portions of Oregon, Washington and all of California, despite the 2013 recommendation. In Oregon, wolves remain under federal protection west of Highway 395, roughly two-thirds of the state.

According to OCA Executive Director Jerome Rosa, OCA members felt that this limbo has continued for far too long. “Nobody wants to sue,” says Rosa. “Unfortunately, that’s what you have to do to get action. Our members have been living patiently with wolves for a long time. They have tried hard and abided by the law, and we felt like this was the responsible thing to do at this time.”

According to Johanna Talcott, a lawyer with the Pacific Legal Fund (PLF), which intends to represent OCA, the case, from a legal standpoint, is clear. “Under the ESA, when the service issues a proposal, they have 12 months to publish a final rule,” she explains. “To me, this is not a very complicated issue.”

For neighboring states, however, the issue is considerably less clear cut. According to Rosa, the plan to sue was originally conceived last year, through the combined efforts of members of the OCA as well as the Washington Cattlemen’s Association (WCA). However, while WCA members were present at the Oregon meeting, that group has indicated that they would rather not take part in the suit. Similarly, members of the California Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), also in attendance in Oregon, have indicated that they do not intend to take part in the suit at this time.

“At this time, we are not contemplating joining the suit,” says CCA director of government affairs Kirk Wilbur. While strongly in favor of delisting wolves, Wilbur indicates that CCA prefers to give the fledgling Trump administration a chance to address the issue on their own.

“We know that we have a sympathetic administration,” he says. “We want to give them time to act to delist the wolf in accordance with the proposed rulemaking that began in 2013. If they ultimately fail to move forward on that, then maybe down the line, litigation is an option. But I don’t think that right now is the appropriate time to employ that strategy.”

Additionally, says Wilbur, his organization is already involved in a similar lawsuit to delist wolves at the state level, as a hedge against the expected federal delisting. “We suspect that, ultimately, the gray wolf will be delisted federally,” he says. “The issue then is that wolves are still completely protected within California. We’re focusing our efforts there.”

Ethan Lane, executive director of the Public Lands Council, has also expressed concerns regarding the timing of the suit. “We like what we’ve heard from (USFWS) on their path forward for delisting so far,” Lane says of the PLC. “Given the fact that there is not a new director or any senior staff in place yet, we’re inclined to let that play out before we go to the legal system.”

“However, we always want to be careful to respect the decision of any of our state affiliates to choose the path that is best for them,” he adds.

Citing the recent delisting of wolves in Wyoming as an encouraging sign, Lane indicates that much is resting on the pending court decision in the upper Great Lakes, where wolves were returned to the ESA list following a court order in 2014.

“The court case that is pending there is really the lynchpin of the whole issue,” says Lane. “I think that everyone is waiting with baited breath for the appeals court to rule on that.”

WCA president Tyler Cox also does not think that USFWS is likely to move prior to the great lakes decision, pointing out further cause for his state to question the timing of the suit.

“Once that 60 day notice is filed, that tool is done,” he says. “To me, that’s using up one of our major pieces of ammunition before we’re in range of anything.”

Ironically, a potentially favorable administration is also a major factor in OCA’s decision to go ahead with the lawsuit.

“We are obviously concerned that, following the 2018 elections, the political atmosphere may change,” says Rosa. “It takes a while for this process to move forward. To take advantage of the current favorable atmosphere, we felt like we should go ahead and move at this time.”

In order to start the process, a 60-day notice of intent to sue must be filed with the federal government, a step that Talcott says will occur sometime this week. According to Talcott, PLF feels that USFWS is unlikely to move soon without some pressure. “We have to initiate these lawsuits to get them to move,” she says. “They don’t act without a little bit of prodding.”

“There’s several different strategies in place here,” says Rosa. “Different folks have different thoughts and ideas on what the best time is. We felt like the pros outweighed the cons, and that’s why we decided to move forward at this time.” — Jason Campbell, WLJ correspondent

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

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Trump’s Agriculture Secretary Leading 22-Agency Task Force to Reignite Rural America, Protect Forgotten Man

Agriculture, Federal gov & land grabs, President Trump and officials

 The Westerner.blogspot.com

 Saturday, June 17, 2017

by Penny Starr

In keeping with President Donald Trump’s executive order establishing the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue launched the effort on Thursday along with representatives from 22 federal agencies that are taking on the wide-ranging initiative. The task force will work to find ways to increase jobs, housing and educational opportunities for America’s rural communities, and to remove obstacles, such as burdensome regulations, and to improve infrastructure and access to technology. The task force held its inaugural meeting in Washington, D.C., and attendees included Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai, and other government officials. “What we began here today is to lay a fertile seed bed in rural America, where good things can grow,” Perdue said. He went on:

Rural America has been struggling under burdensome regulations, but the leaders we gathered today are willing to work together to turn that around.
By establishing this task force, President Trump showed his commitment to prioritizing the prosperity of the farmers and ranchers of America’s heartland, as well as all citizens living in rural communities across this great country.
Guided by the President at the helm, and with Secretaries Carson and Perry, Director Mulvaney, Trade Representative Lighthizer, and so many others, we are telling rural America that we’re here, we’re listening, and we’re going to help provide you with the resources, tools, and support to build robust, sustainable communities for generations to come.

Just some quick, random thoughts:

—Revise and simplify BLM & FS grazing regs

—Inventory all vacant grazing allotments and bring them back into production  

—Revise policies so that ranchers have an incentive to invest in range improvements, rather than the disincentives that currently exist 

—Quit wasting time and money on these namby-pamby forest thinning projects and instead lease federal lands for timber harvest

—Stop policies whereby federal agencies can administratively designate wilderness areas and hold them in limbo for years waiting for Congress to act

—Many good things can be accomplished by revising manuals and policy guidance to the field, and without going through the time-consuming regulatory process. This avenue for change should be pursued immediately

I’m sure that, given time for reflection, others will have some great recommendations.


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

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Hearing lambasts “sue and settle” agreements

Agriculture, Clean Water ACT - EPA, Lawsuits

Western Livestock Journal

wlj, 06-05-2017 » Page 1

Hearing lambasts “sue and settle” agreements

— Cost to taxpayers staggering

Cozy consent decrees between environmental groups and agencies could become a thing of the past if a recent hearing on Capitol Hill is any indication. On May 24, a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing examined abusive “sue and settle” tactics, their effects, and how to put a stop to them.

There to explain “sue and settle” to the committee were several witnesses from the private sector, including an Idaho rancher; a Colorado property rights attorney; an environmental attorney; and a representative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, William Kovacs.

The “sue and settle” phenomenon happens under the “citizen suit” provisions of environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Environmental groups sue agencies, usually on procedural errors such as missed deadlines. Often, the agencies then voluntarily agree to consent decrees instead of going to trial.

Those settlements can result in new federal regulations that lack public vetting and analysis, because they often include abbreviated deadlines for agency decisions, Kovacs said. They can also result in the denial of federal permits or the imposition of permit conditions on private parties such as ranchers. They can bind an agency to future actions, and sometimes even bind future administrations.

The only parties than can enforce a consent decree are the interest group, the agency, or the court, Kovacs explained. The public is completely left out of the process. Even parties that intervene to defend against environmental groups are most often left out of the settlement.

Cozy—and costly

Furthermore, there doesn’t always appear to be an adversarial relationship between the interest groups and the agencies, Kovacs argued. For example, he said between 2009 and 2012 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chose not to defend itself in over 60 Clean Air Act lawsuits from advocacy groups. These cases resulted in settlement agreements—and EPA ultimately published more than 100 new regulations.

The cost to Americans is staggering. According to a 2013 Chamber report, the 10 most costly regulations from sue-and-settle agreements (all EPA water and air regulations) cost the economy in excess of $100 billion annually. Kovacs noted that, between 2013 and 2016, settlements and new regulations only increased.

Setting the agenda Ironically, the shorter deadlines imposed by consent decrees are usually the result of deadlines already missed by the agency, Kovacs said.

“Here’s how the problem starts,” Kovacs explained. “An agency like the EPA misses somewhere between 84 percent and 96 percent of its deadlines. And once a deadline is missed, the interest group can sue the agency.”

And since EPA misses virtually all of its deadlines, he went on to say interest groups can cherry-pick which rules out of hundreds of rules they want to advance. “It’s through this selection process that the interest groups establish the priorities of the agency,” he said.

Creating log-jams

Another witness at the hearing, Colorado attorney Kent Holsinger, also pointed out how environmental groups are sometimes creating the very “log-jams” that open the door for litigation. For example, by petitioning to list hundreds of species at a time under the ESA, certain groups have made it impossible for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to meet its ESA-imposed deadlines. The groups then litigate those missed deadlines, forcing the agency to divert resources into the courtroom and miss even more deadlines.

The staggering number of ESA lawsuits brought by a few environmental groups over the years finally resulted in the infamous 2011 “mega-settlements” that gave USFWS shortened deadlines on over 1,000 species listing decisions. The result, Holsinger said, has been numerous listings and critical habitat designations that haven’t been properly analyzed by the agency or vetted by the public.

Ranching in the crosshairs

Witness Darcy Helmick, an Idaho rancher and representative of Simplot Land & Livestock, gave several examples of how interest groups use missed agency deadlines and settlements to target the livestock industry. In one case on Idaho’s Jarbidge Resource Area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), anti-grazing litigators had sued to prevent BLM from renewing a large number of grazing permits. That lawsuit resulted in a settlement agreement wherein BLM was to perform environmental reviews within a certain timeline before renewing the permits.

But then the special interest group sued BLM again on a separate matter, making it impossible for the field office to accomplish its environmental reviews in time. Over 2,000 pairs of cattle had to be removed for over 80 days until a judge issued an order allowing them back on.

Taxpayers funding the problem

Several of the witnesses noted that interest groups are benefiting nicely from attorney fees awarded in settlement agreements. Holsinger pointed to a 2012 House Committee on Natural Resources investigation that showed that, between 2008 and 2012, the federal government paid more than $15 million in attorney fees on ESA-related lawsuits alone.

“Unfortunately,” Holsinger noted, “the true cost of ‘sue and settle’ is impossible to ascertain as neither the agencies nor the Department of Justice seem to keep track.”

Holsinger also pointed out that many of the groups that use “sue and settle” receive extensive government grants. For example, WildEarth Guardians, one of the groups party to the 2011 ESA mega-settlements, received $800,104 in government grants—just in 2016.

Legislation needed

Though things could be different under the Trump administration (EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt stated in March 2017 that the EPA intended to end the practice of ‘sue and settle’), the problem reaches beyond the EPA and beyond this administration, the witnesses noted.

“Legislation is needed, because the [sue and settle] practice can be repetitive in the future,” said Kovacs.

One bill, H.R. 1525, the Stop Taxpayer Funded Settlements Act, would prevent attorney fees from being awarded in settlements regarding the Clean Air Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, or the ESA.

Several witnesses also pointed to H.R. 469, the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2017 (Senate companion bill S. 119). The bill would require the defending agency to provide a 60-day notice to the public on consent decrees so the public can provide comments. The agency would then be required to provide a summary of those comments to the court for review. Additionally, interested parties such as ranchers would be granted the right to intervene and participate in the consent decree if they could establish their rights weren’t being adequately protected by the defending agency.

“We are not trying to change any of the law in terms of how the process goes or the discretion of the agencies,” said Kovacs. “What we’re trying to do with H.R. 469 is bring transparency to the process.”— Theodora Johnson, WLJ correspondent

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

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Save the FFA — call Assemblyman Brian Dahle and Senator Ted Gaines


Contact Your Legislators to Save Career Technical Education

Governor Jerry Brown released his 2017-18 budget which proposes the complete elimination of funding for Career Technical Education (CTE) programs, including the complete defunding of organizations like FFA.

The budget proposal will go before a key vote on Tuesday, May 23.
Your legislators need to hear from you NOW!

The proposal would allocate $48 million dollars in available CTE funds ENTIRELY to the California Community College Chancellor’s Office to supplement other workforce development funds already in existence.  Specifically, this cuts the $15 million that used to flow to California Department of Education, which will lead to the ELIMINATION of funding to the following:

  • Career Technical Student Organizations, such as FFA.

  • Professional Development Activities for CTE Instructors, including agriculture teachers.

  • Partnership Academy Programs, which have proven to be highly effective models for engaging students in focused learning groups centered on themes and majors of interest.

  • The University of California Curriculum Institute, which assists CTE courses and programs in gaining UC/CSU recognition for admission purposes in meeting A-G course requirements.

These cuts would ultimately lead to the decimation of CTE programs. Contact your legislator immediately to express your concern regarding this proposal! Be sure to personalize the pre-drafted letter with your own CTE experiences.

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Water squeeze in Oregon’s Klamath Basin pits ranchers against tribes, both with strong ties to the land

Agriculture, cattle, Klamath Tribe, Lawsuits, Water rights

PNP comment: This is a fairly good background article on the lawsuit and eventual settlement in favor of the Klamath Tribes being allowed to take other water right users’ water allotments away. — Editor Liz Bowen

Oregon Live.com

By Scott Learn, The Oregonian
Follow on Twitter
on July 06, 2013 at 12:00 PM, updated July 08, 2013 at 6:30 AM

SPRAGUE RIVER — A summer evening on Jim and Caren Goold’s  front porch. The river meanders through their cow pasture, a curly blue ribbon framed by foothills dotted with ponderosa pine. And, yes, the cattle are lowing.

It’s about as pastoral as a scene gets. But the upper Klamath Basin, already three months into a drought emergency, is far from peaceful this summer.

Two parties with strong ties to the land, the upper basin ranchers and The Klamath Tribes, are pitted against each other for limited water, the latest skirmish in one of the nation’s most persistent water wars. And deep historical divisions stand in the way of compromise.

In late June, a state watermaster handed Jim Goold a yellow card ordering him to shut off irrigation for the first time in his 40 years on the 617-acre ranch.

“It’s beyond frustrating,” Caren Goold says. “We have all this wonderful water going by and we can’t touch any of it.”

The Goolds worry they’ll lose pasture for 300-plus cows, their income and their ranch, where Jim’s parents are buried out back. They see a future land grab through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, with land values falling as irrigation water evaporates.

Here’s where history’s twists come in. Much of the upper basin, including the Goolds’ ranch, was once The Klamath Tribes‘ reservation land. The federal government “terminated” the tribes in 1954, a move that included cash payouts, but is widely seen as a tribal disaster.

This year, fortunes sharply changed. The state of Oregon ruled that the tribes’ “time immemorial” water rights on the former reservation remain intact, giving the tribes a firm upper hand. Last month, tribal leaders called their water rights to sustain their hunting and fishing grounds, triggering the shutoffs.

Twenty miles down Sprague River Road, at the tribes’ offices in Chiloquin, Perry Chocktoot  talks about his own attachment to the land, too. He grew up hunting and fishing here. His grandmother taught him how to smoke and can fish –110 minutes, 15 pounds of pressure.

Chocktoot, the tribes’ cultural and heritage director, says court cases and water rights decisions should have warned the ranchers what was coming. But too many of them view Indians as “drunken idiots,” he says. “And, guess what, we’re not.”

“We’re here by the gift of our creator to help the community,” he says. “That mindset has never been reciprocal. They had a chance to effectively work with the tribes, but they said not just no, but hell no.”

Dry times

Absent a judicial reprieve or a settlement, the water rights decision means irrigation with river water will be shut off to hundreds of ranchers this summer, shriveling pasture for 70,000 to 100,000 cattle.

GS.10025953A_GR.KLAMATHFALLS-02.jpgView full size

So far, state watermasters have shut off water to roughly 300 irrigators on the Sprague and Williamson rivers, with more tributaries of Upper Klamath Lake still to be evaluated.

It’s an echo of Klamath water fiasco a decade ago.

In 2001, the U.S. government cut off water to irrigators who tap Upper Klamath Lake as part of the century-old federal reclamation project. The shutoff stemmed from Endangered Species Act listings of coho salmon and two species of suckers and strict ESA requirements on federal projects.

The next year, with intervention from Dick Cheney, the farmers got water instead, and 30,000 chinook salmon died in the lower Klamath River.

That crisis pushed project farmers to negotiate with the tribes, federal and state governments and others to share water and restore riverside habitat. The 2008 Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement was coupled with a plan to remove four PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River by 2020, which would be the largest dam removal in U.S. history.

But this year is different. Cattle ranchers above the lake, outside the reclamation project, were free to irrigate despite the ESA listings — until this year’s water rights decision.

Many of the ranchers are still fighting, in court and on the streets. On Monday, they rallied in Klamath Falls, driving cattle trucks down Main Street.

They also have challenged the water rights decisions in Klamath County circuit court, asking for a stay this summer. They say the state gave the tribes more water than they need to support hunting and fishing habitat.

The tribes’ water calls would reduce irrigation even in normal water years, the ranchers argue. State officials figure tribal rights fall well below normal streamflows, but the ranchers think the state’s flow estimates are too high.

Roger Nicholson, who leads two ranching groups, raises cattle on 3,000 acres near Fort Klamath. Some of that land came from tribal members, he says, but most has been in his family since the 1890s.

The tribes’ water calls affect his draw even on streams outside the former reservation, he says, since those flows are needed to meet the water rights the tribes won downstream.

The water rights decisions were “a travesty of justice,” Nicholson says, and the shutoffs are “an economic catastrophe beyond compare.” Affected ranches cover more than 100,000 acres, ranching groups estimate.

“It’s bankrupting a whole community,” Nicholson says.


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

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LaMalfa and Garamendi Introduce Legislation to Ease Restrictions on Agricultural Construction

Agriculture, Doug LaMalfa Congressman CA

April 27, 2017

(Washington, DC) – Today, Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) and Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) announced the introduction of HR 2170, the FARM Cost Reduction Act. This bipartisan legislation would lift a de facto prohibition on construction and repair of agricultural structures in areas designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as flood risks. Under current law, areas designated as Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) generally require all new, expanded or repaired structures to be raised above potential flood level. In many areas in Northern California, however, such restrictions would require raising barns and silos upwards of ten feet, adding prohibitive costs and lessening the utility of the structures.

The legislation also directs FEMA to develop a new flood mapping zone, which would be comprised of levee basins which are protected by levees that do not meet FEMA’s 100-year level of flood protection. Insurance rates in this zone would be based on actuarial risk, meaning if the levees provide a 50-year level of protection, FEMA would charge rates based on that risk level. Under current policy, if a levee does not meet the 100-year level of protection, FEMA assumes there is no protection at all, and charges rates that are structured like those that would be charged absent a levee.

LaMalfa said: “This bill keeps the North State’s farm economy growing and lowers costs for agriculture by modernizing federal flood insurance rules that currently place the same requirements on barns and silos as on suburban housing tracts. By recognizing that agricultural structures have different needs than residential neighborhoods, farmers will be able to build new barns, silos, and sheds and purchase insurance at reasonable rates. I am pleased to work with my colleague, Rep. Garamendi, and our bipartisan coalition to bring some common sense back to flood insurance requirements.”

Garamendi said: “Agriculture is the most responsible use of these floodplains because it keeps spaces open and limits development—both of which are essential to responsible flood control. Current regulations on agricultural structures pave the way for less responsible development and are actually counterproductive to decreasing flood risk. That’s why I’m proud to be working across the aisle with my neighboring Congressman, Doug LaMalfa, to improve floodplain management.”

Reps. LaMalfa and Garamendi have been longtime collaborators on this issue. They first introduced this legislation in the 113th Congress and continue to campaign for funding important local levee projects, the construction of Sites Reservoir, and other projects that will reduce flood risk and take advantage of excess surface flows to create new water to fit California’s expanding needs.

The FARM Cost Reduction Act is supported by the California Rice Commission, USA Rice Federation, American Farm Bureau Federation, California Farm Bureau Federation, Sacramento County Farm Bureau, Yuba-Sutter Farm Bureau, Yolo County Farm Bureau, California Cattlemen’s Association, Dairy Institute of California, Sacramento County, San Joaquin County, Sutter County, Butte County, and the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency.

Congressman Doug LaMalfa is a lifelong farmer representing California’s First Congressional District, including Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou and Tehama Counties.



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Klamath Tribes terminate water compact, potentially devastating ranchers, farmers

Agriculture, cattle, Klamath Tribe, Tribes, Water rights, Water, Resources & Quality

Free Range Report.com

April 24, 2017

In April 2014, ranchers and the Tribes signed the Upper Basin Comprehensive Agreement. The ranchers agreed to retire 18,000 acres of land or 30,000 acre feet of water and do riparian repair work on the rivers in exchange for an allotment of water each year…

At the end of February, the Tribes indicated to the ranchers they wanted to terminate the agreement…

Gerry O’Brien

Herald and News

Tribes issue water claim, ranchers fear the worst

There are few options for the Upper Klamath Basin ranchers who are now under a call for water from the Klamath Tribes, just as irrigation season is fast approaching.

The ranchers believe their livelihood is at stake and so may be much of the economy for the county. The issue affects some 300,000 acres of land and 1,000 or more ranchers north and east of Klamath Falls.

Two weeks ago, the Tribes called on its water rights for “flood plain” water on the Sprague and Williamson Rivers, which are running high due to spring runoff. The Wood River is under the same call, which is expected to take effect Monday, experts predict. All three feed into Upper Klamath Lake.

The Tribes have primary water rights, which supersede any secondary rights of the ranchers and irrigators.

The Herald and News was unable to get a comment from the tribal chairman for this story, but Chairman Don Gentry has said in the past the call was necessary now to benefit fish habitat in high water zones, basically flushing out the river to allow for new growth. That will help endangered fish, such as Lost River and short-nosed suckers, downstream.

The ranchers say that by June or July, pastures will be turning brown and those without underground wells and adequate stock water for cattle will be forced to ship cattle elsewhere for forage, an expensive proposition.

Options are limited

Ranchers hope to get the Tribes to either remove the call, or return to the bargaining table and hammer out a deal that would benefit both sides. Also, the state could join the negotiations or Congress could step in to help by pushing legislation to resolve the issue.

Those who have their water shut off, may file an appeal with the watermaster, which would put a hold on the shutoff unless the state rules otherwise. That could buy some time for the ranchers and the upper Basin irrigators are exploring that avenue.

Any federal appeal, such as seeking an injunction to the call, would be a costly proposition, experts say.

“This would not have happened if the unprecedented agreement (KBRA) produced by tribes, irrigators and conservationists had not been blocked. I stand ready to put in the work again to resolve this longstanding issue with an agreement that addresses the long-term needs of all the parties,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in an email.

(One reason the bill failed was it was tied to removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. Congressmen in Northern California were opposed to the dam removal).

Andrew Malcolm, spokesman for Rep. Greg Walden, said, “This shows the continued need for a long-lasting solution in the Basin. Greg’s been working on these issues a long time, and continues to work with stakeholders to find a solution that has the needed support with the public and in Congress.”

What the call means

A few of the ranchers and irrigators met with the Herald and News editorial board last week to lay out their concerns.

In April 2014, ranchers and the Tribes signed the Upper Basin Comprehensive Agreement. The ranchers agreed to retire 18,000 acres of land or 30,000 acre feet of water and do riparian repair work on the rivers in exchange for an allotment of water each year. That pact was linked to the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) for the lower basin that eventually failed to gain congressional approval. Without it, the agreements had no money to be carried out.

At the end of February, the Tribes indicated to the ranchers they wanted to terminate the agreement, but have yet to file formal notice of termination with the Interior Department.

“Last year, we worked under the agreement and there was no call,” said Larry Nicholson, a fourth-generation Forth Klamath rancher. He’s also a member of the Klamath Tribes. “Now there is no communication with the Tribes, and everything just fell apart. We have nothing else to give.”

The way the call works is: Any amount of water flowing above 2,190 cfs can be called on by the tribes; When flows get down to 2,190 cfs, the call ends and irrigators will be able to irrigate again. When flows hit 1,440 cfs the water is shut off for the summer.

So, once ranchers are able to turn the water back on, nearly all of them will begin irrigating as fast and as much as possible. Some experts say that could be a short window of just a couple of days to a couple of weeks.

“On the Wood, this a straight up call to shut the whole Wood River down for the summer,” said Larry Nicholson. “Unless we can come up with an agreement, it will be like a domino effect and the Wood River will be the first one to fall.”

Economic fallout

Roger Nicholson, a cousin of Larry’s, also has a longtime family ranch in the valley.

“It is going to start hurting shortly. These are Draconian instream flow levels. What adjudication has meant for us is a taking of our water,” he said. “We’re the whipping boy now.”

The economic impacts could be “a $1 billion hit” Roger Nicholson predicts. Not only will Klamath County suffer, the region will suffer, he said.

“We send cattle to the San Joaquin Valley for feed; we send them to the state of Washington as feeders and for the packing industry. I send 7,000 head alone. All that could go away,” Nicholson said. Plus, the ripple effects will be felt across the county, he warned.

Klamath Tribes terminate water compact, potentially devastating ranchers, farmers

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Klamath Tribe wants all the water

Agriculture, Agriculture - California, Air, Climate & Weather, cattle, Klamath Tribe, Water rights, Water, Resources & Quality

Herald and News.com

Ranchers in the Upper Basin react

Tribal water call: ‘Devastating’

The call on water by the Klamath Tribes will be devastating economically for the cattlemen in the Upper Basin, affected ranchers said Tuesday.

The Tribes made the call last week. A water call puts the rest of the secondary water users on notice that the Tribes intend to use its water allocation in the Williamson, Sprague and possibly the Wood rivers for the benefit of fish habitat over irrigation for farming and cattle operations.

“This call is potentially devastating to both irrigators and the Tribes,” said Becky Hyde, a member of a long-time cattle ranching family in the Upper Basin above Upper Klamath Lake. “Our ag communities want what is best for the fish as well, but this puts a tremendous strain on our relationship with the Tribes.”

 While the call focuses on the current high water flows in the rivers — and if they fall to a certain level, irrigators can actually irrigate — there is still the concern that the irrigation window will be short-lived.

This is the first time the regulations have taken effect with spring runoff, which could run to June 1 or end sooner.

Water agreement

Hyde and several other ranchers spent years hammering out an Upper Basin agreement over water use with the Tribes. That agreement is still on the books, but has no funding behind it, hence is moot. The agreement would retire some 18,000 acres of land from use to put water back into the streams. In turn, there will be water security for ranchers.

Larry Nicholson, whose family also has historic cattle ranches on the Wood River, said the economic impact will be huge. A water call has not been made on the Wood, but Nicholson expects it.

“There are some 30,000 head of cattle that are moved into the area from ranches in California,” Nicholson said. “The grass in the Fort Klamath area is highly nutritious, but it is only good in the summer as it’s too cold to keep cattle there in the winter. Most ranches are not setup for stock water. If there is no water, the cattle will be kept in California, crowding out those ranch resources.”

After that …

“We have yearlings who need to grow all summer on grass,” Hyde said. “It’s a scramble to find alternative grazing. If you multiply that across the region, the water call a big deal,” she said. “We will be OK in the spring thanks to the early moisture and growing grasses. After that, it could be devastating.”

A couple of years back, Hyde shipped some cattle out after water supplies dwindled.

“This will be worse. There will be no water,” Hyde said.

Randall Kiser, who is a fifth-generation rancher on the Sprague and Wood, said, “When you have a snowpack at 138 of average and there is still a call for water, something is wrong.” Kiser, too, worked on the water pact with the tribes. Some 150 large and small ranches on the Sprague will be affected by the call.

“It’s a serious situation,” Kizer said.

“It would be nice if we could negotiate a settlement, finalize it and keep moving” he said. “This call affects everybody in the Upper Basin. When we last met in February, the Tribes told us they were ‘settlement-minded.’”

Fisheries status

Tribal Chairman Don Gentry said of the call Monday, “I understand the concerns for the agricultural community, but there needs to be concerns for the status of our fisheries.”

Both Hyde and Nicholson point out that the agreements work both ways. The idea was to have cattlemen build fences to keep cattle out of the rivers so fish habitat could grow.

“If you don’t have fences, it stands to reason the cattle will be drinking from the river,” Nicholson said, damaging habitat and eroding banks.

“Just having water doesn’t restore habitat,” Hyde said. “That’s where everyone loses. The Klamath Tribes have a powerful card that they are playing, but that doesn’t, mean they win in the end.”

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In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml


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CA. Fish and Wildlife (DFG) will be doing fly-overs in Siskiyou Co. today

Agriculture, California Rivers, Dept. Fish & Game, Property rights, Ranch life, Water rights, Water, Resources & Quality

I learned that CA F&G will be conducting low level flights over Scott Valley with a small plane in the coming days. The County has requested they stay above the required 500-foot level with respect to spooking cattle etc.

We also requested Elizabeth Nielsen, Siskiyou Co. Natural Resource Specialist, be able to fly with them to understand what they are looking for and with respect to the former elevation requirement. That request has been denied.

Ray A. Haupt

(530) 925-0444

PNP comment: Irrigation season began, in earnest, in Scott Valley on April 1, 2017, when most land owners were then able to open their headgates to legally obtain their water right. There are some water rights that do not begin until April 15.  Why DFG is flying this early in the season, when there is plenty of water for  irrigation, stock water and fish in the river is a BIG question mark? — Editor Liz Bowen

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