Lawsuit filed over agricultural water use in Klamath refuges

©Jordan Jones

On Jan. 17, the Audubon Society of Portland, WaterWatch of Oregon, and Oregon Wild filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s newly released Record of Decision for the finalized Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex Comprehensive Conservation Plan. The 15-year conservation plan applies to five refuges that sit along the Oregon-California border: Lower Klamath, Clear Lake, Tule Lake, Upper Klamath, and Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuges.

The groups specifically oppose FWS’ decision to allow for the continuation of commercial agricultural leasing on over 20,000 acres within the Refuge Complex’s boundaries. They argue that the diversion of water to agricultural operations has reduced the amount available to replenish the Complex’s wetlands and lakes that are already stressed by drought conditions and climatic changes. As a main stop along the Pacific Flyway, the Complex provides migratory birds with thousands of acres of important wetland habitat as they fly between Alaskan and Canadian breeding grounds and Mexican and South American overwintering grounds.

Read more about the lawsuit at The Oregonian.