Consensus on the Klamath
No one said it would be easy. Or fast.
On February 18, 30 parties representing conservationists, commercial fishermen, tribes, farmers and ranchers, hydropower interests, and local, state and federal agencies signed an agreement to restore the Klamath River in California and Oregon, including removing four mainstem dams and restoring habitat from the California coast inland more than 350 miles.
While the Klamath restoration deal still has some hurdles to overcome, when implemented in 2020, it will represent the most ambitious river restoration project ever attempted, and will become the linchpin for coastal salmon and steelhead recovery in California and Oregon.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Klamath settlement is where it happened. As The Oregonian  noted, the Klamath has been the epicenter of the Western water wars over the last decade. In a debate too often framed as fish versus farmers, the fish generally lost, and the runs today are a fraction of what they were even a decade ago. Perhaps the most memorable image to anglers was from 2002, when politicians decided to divert the river’s flow for local irrigators, killing an estimated 30,000 endangered Chinook salmon.
Trout Unlimited has been a driving force behind the settlement, which represented nearly a decade of quiet negotiations, and has helped to develop solutions that worked for the ecosystem and the people who live there. The only way that TU could take this long-term approach was with adequate funding. In fact, it was TU’s Coldwater Conservation Fund that made this work possible.
The CCF was created with the understanding that science-based conservation can be slow and expensive. There are few quick fixes to problems that often took decades or longer to develop. But through the CCF, more than 1,400 angler-conservationists commit annually to step forward and support such lasting conservation.
And as the Klamath example shows, such a lasting commitment leads to lasting results.