Letter: Easier to sue the farmer than face root problem

November 22, 2016
Letter: Easier to sue the farmer than face root problem

By Dennis Flannery

Have you or anyone you know ever seen a spotted frog? Is your life, liberty or pursuit of happiness affected by this little frog in any way whatsoever?

I just received a letter from the Tumalo Irrigation District informing me, along with all irrigators getting their water from either Tumalo, Arnold, Central Oregon, Lone Pine and North Unit irrigation districts, that we will be forced to give up at least 30 percent of our water “for at least the next year.”

Why? Because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed this little frog as a threatened species in 2014. Consequently, WaterWatch of Oregon and the Center for Biological Diversity brought lawsuits against the irrigation companies demanding a huge percentage of their water be used for protection of this frog; all this to the detriment of most the farmers in Central Oregon. In fact, they demanded so much water that Tumalo Irrigation could be all but out of business. A judge didn’t allow that particular injustice, but did allow them 50 percent to 75 percent of their unjust demands. That would be the previously mentioned 30 percent of our water. This, in my opinion, is confiscation without compensation.

When I began ranching over three decades ago, my irrigation bill was around $350 per year. Since 2008, six years before this particular frog was put on the threatened species list, Tumalo Irrigation along with seven other irrigation districts and the city of Prineville began working with the USFWS and other interested parties on a Habitat Conservation Plan. A major part of this continuing program is to pipe the canals in order to substantially reduce the extensive water loss due to seepage and evaporation, leaving a great deal more water in the rivers and streams. This has been a successful but costly endeavor. My annual cost for irrigation water is now $1,770 per year and climbing. Most of the increased cost comes from the bonds sold to pay for these water conservation projects. Now we’re told we haven’t done nearly enough, and if we want our water back we’ll have to pay and pay and… Tell you what, if WaterWatch wants to confiscate 30 percent of my water, I would like them to reimburse me at least 30 percent of my irrigation bill for at least the next year. So WaterWatch, if you’ll send me a check for $531 I’ll quit fussing — for 12 months.

All this hubbub about threatened and endangered species piqued my curiosity, so I decided to do a little research. As you know, frogs are in the amphibian family. I found that amphibians, as a group, clearly are the most endangered species worldwide. They react badly to the changing climate and worldwide pollution caused by the exploding human population. Their losses annually amount to 3.7 percent of their total population. That’s a staggering number. And here’s a stunning statistic for you: 150 to 200 species go extinct every day. Yep, you read that right, every day. That’s 50,000 to 80,000 species going extinct per year.

Species go extinct even in protected environments such as National Parks, Wildlife refuges, etc. Point being, for hundreds of millions of years before man put his hand in the mix, the environment had been relentlessly changing, and millions of species have come into existence and subsequently gone extinct. However, it is believed by those who concern themselves with such matters, that the rate of extinction worldwide is now a 1,000 times greater due to the influence of man. I can’t dispute that. No living thing can compete with the propagation of human beings. It is believed by a vast majority of “intellectuals” that most of the planet’s ills can be attributed to mankind’s enormous population. Yet, I have not heard of one environmental group suggest we start doing something about the human population explosion and all the destruction it brings. But there is no doubt it’s easier to sue the lowly farmer to keep the spotted frog wet than to give one thought to the root of the problem. Just sayin’.

— Dennis Flannery lives in Tumalo.

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