Letter to the editor: Threatened lawsuit on spotted frogs is not productive

September 16, 2015
Letter to the editor: Threatened lawsuit on spotted frogs is not productive

By Gladys I. Biglor

WaterWatch of Oregon and Center for Biological Diversity threaten to sue Central Oregon, Tumalo and North Unit Irrigation Districts along with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation over Oregon spotted frog habitat. Am I the only Central Oregonian disgusted with endless destructive environmental lawsuits?

Let’s look at some ongoing collaborative efforts focused on improving habitat for bull trout, steelhead and the Oregon spotted frog in the Deschutes River Basin. Currently these three irrigation districts along with 20 additional diverse stakeholders (including Deschutes River Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, city, state and federal agencies) have worked together to develop a basis for future water management in the basin. The irrigation districts along with five additional partners and the city of Prineville are also developing a Deschutes Basin Habitat Conservation Plan which provides clear, specific habitat improvement techniques for implementation to improve habitat for these three species.

Patrons of the irrigation districts (our neighbors, friends, farmers, ranchers — many who are organic food growers) are investing millions of dollars into these plans and their successful deployment. Irrigation patrons understand the importance of balanced river/community sustainable policies. They care deeply about the environment, our flora, fauna, threatened and endangered species, and our thriving Central Oregon communities.

WaterWatch has been a part of the basin study work group all along with direct involvement in the process. CBD, of Tucson, Arizona, on the other hand has never joined the collaborative work groups. Neither group has contributed monetarily to these efforts to my knowledge.

Most importantly, their lawsuit threats have the potential to dismantle all meaningful steps the Upper Deschutes Basin Study and D-HCP have developed. Improved habitat for bull trout, steelhead and Oregon spotted frog habitat in the basin will be the loser.

Additional important facts include:

Reasons for Oregon spotted frog decline, according to the U.S. and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife agencies, include invasion of nonnative plants and fish, natural succession of plant communities from marshes to meadows, loss of marsh habitat, and overgrazing of streamside vegetation.

The biggest spotted frog losses are caused by invasive bullfrogs according to the Oregon Zoo, which in the recent past has conducted a breeding and release program in the Pacific Northwest under the direction of the Washington Department of Natural Resources.

The largest losses of spotted frog habitat, according for U.S. and ODFW, are in the Willamette and Klamath basins.

The most effective conservation measures to spotted frog habitat improvement include eliminating invasive bullfrogs and warm-water game fish, active management of nonnative plant species and maintaining healthy aquatic habitats.

Tumalo and Central Oregon Irrigation Districts initiated a pilot study in 2015 to determine the benefits of increasing winter and spring releases from Crescent Lake to improve frog-breeding success.

Central Oregon Irrigation District patrons voluntarily released water this year from Crane Prairie Reservoir to counteract natural drought-related low flows in the Deschutes River to improve breeding conditions for the spotted frog and have pledged additional water cutbacks to increase fall storage and flows in the Deschutes River.

A pilot program is underway in the Ryan Ranch area to determine the feasibility of creating spotted frog habitat in the meadow. Should it prove successful, irrigation districts have committed to permanently maintaining the marsh.

Regardless of these positive measures, WaterWatch and Center for Biological Diversity irrationally demand irrigation districts maintain a consistent flow of water in the Deschutes River without showing that existing spotted frog habitat in the Deschutes River Basin is critically damaged, and without showing that current water flows in the Deschutes River Basin have caused Oregon spotted frog decline.

Threatening a lawsuit when so many members of our community are actively working toward positive solutions is counterproductive.

— Gladys I. Biglor lives in Bend.

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