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Klamath Falls, Oregon – Of the environmental issues that afflicted the Pacific Northwest in 2001, the fight over the suckerfish proved to be the most contentious. The Klamath Falls farming community quickly found itself at the mercy of federal government agencies such as the National Marine and Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service when both recommended and implemented cutting off water to Klamath Basin farmers in an effort to save the endangered suckerfish. Klamath Falls citizens, many of whom happen to be Oregon CSE members, immediately protested the government’s plan of action, stating that the regulatory decision was based on unsound science. Oregon CSE quickly mobilized its activists in Oregon and Washington to show support for Klamath Falls farmers and demanded the use of common sense science by government regulators.
As a result of vehement citizen outcry, Interior Secretary Gale Norton called on the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to perform an assessment of the federal government’s decision to choose fish over farmers. Consequently, Klamath Falls citizens were vindicated by the NAS report, which stated that government agencies had no scientific validation to shut off water supplies to Klamath farmers to save the suckerfish.
Grassroots Mobilization – On August 21, 2001, Oregon CSE activists from across the state converged on Klamath Falls to join with thousands of Oregonians and Californians to ask the federal government for relief and a return of their water rights. OR CSE activists and staff collected over 700 signed letters that day to join with another 500 letters collected throughout the state of Oregon. The letters requested the White House and the Department of Interior to release crucially needed water for the drought-ridden area. Additionally, OR CSE generated emails and phone calls to officials in the Northwest and Washington, D.C., on the Klamath issue.
p>At the Klamath relief rally, OR CSE director Russ Walker spoke before more than 3,000 Klamath farmers and property owners. The rally stopped traffic, garnered attention from nationwide media, and once again proved that there is no better way to ensure that citizen’s voices are heard then through organizing and staying active. Here at CSE we like to say, “Government goes to those who show up.”