Some of the continent’s most important wetland habitat is drying up. Without urgent action, we may be witnessing the death of a flyway.
A visual journey through a century of change. A great Story Map describing Klamath History from the perspective of water fowl.
At their peak, roughly 80% of migrating waterfowl on the Pacific Flyway used the Klamath Basin as rest stop on their way to and from wintering grounds in California’s Central Valley. As wetland habitat on the refuges has declined amid persistent drought and water policy that deprioritizes the refuges, local bird counts have plummeted to roughly 1% of what they were in the mid-20th century.
Picture the Klamath Basin in March, as the summer of 2050 looms on the horizon. It’s been a warm, dry winter. Only specks of white remain on the mountaintops, streams languish with no snowmelt to surge their riffles and forests and grasslands already thirst for moisture. What will the experience of drought in the basin feel like if we do nothing to change the way we manage it? And what could it look like if the watershed’s stakeholders right the ship?
News reports about the Klamath Basin along the California-Oregon border often focus on the upcoming removal of four large dams on the Klamath River. That framework often fails to encompass the full picture of the struggles for all those — humans, animals, and fish — depending on the basin’s water. A recent series in the Klamath Falls Herald and News pulled back the camera, looking past the perennial water fights and into the basin’s past and its future in a climate-changed world. Below, the author discusses the larger story he wanted to tell.
A lot of changes are coming to the Klamath Basin and not everyone’s happy about them.
At a virtual hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee hosted by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) on Tuesday, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) accused the congressman, an official with the Department of the Interior, and members of the Yurok, Hoopa and Karuk tribes of being lying leftists for advocating for dam removal and the ecosystem-wide restoration of the basin.
“These leftists are simply liars,” McClintock said.
nterested parties attended a congressional hearing on Tuesday aimed at determining how $162 million in government money for Klamath Basin habitat restoration should be spent.
Members of Congress from districts along the Oregon-California border, Tribal members, farming interest groups, and officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Reclamation attended the hearing.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently collecting proposals for ecological restoration activities regarding the Klamath Basin in Northern California, including Humboldt County, and Southern Oregon.
The service has $162 million to fund restoration due to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and invites proposals from big and small government agencies, Native American tribes, nongovernmental organizations and conservation specialists.
Snowpack levels are trending far below average in the Klamath basin, foreshadowing another year of drought and bare minimum Upper Klamath Lake levels. In the meantime, the downstream effects on farmers and multiple endangered species of fish continue to ripple throughout the valley with no sign of letting up. The man-made Klamath Lake has been managed by the Bureau of Reclamation since 1902.
Decades of logging and fire suppression have left California’s forests prone to drought, infestation and catastrophic wildfire. Climate change is only exacerbating these impacts. But for thousands of years before, during and after European colonization, Indigenous tribes have lived within and among these forests, intentionally lighting fires to manage landscapes and ecosystem mosaics, enhance habitat, produce food and basketry materials, clear trails, reduce pests and support ceremonial practices.