The Upper Klamath Basin is one of the most productive watershed and lake systems in the world, with extraordinary terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity. Its marshes are a vital stopover for one-third of the world’s pintail ducks and dozens of shorebird species. There are over 11 unique Upper Klamath Basin fish species which are listed, or petitioned to be listed, as endangered species, or are state sensitive.
The Lost River Sucker and the shortnose Sucker, found only in the Klamath Basin, have been listed as federally endangered and threatened since 1988. Historically these fish were very abundant in the Basin, serving as a major food source for Native Americans, and it is estimated that the aboriginal harvest at one site alone was 50 tons annually. Over one million tons of these suckers were harvested and exported to California during the Gold Rush and the development of San Francisco for food, fertilizer and oil.
Although a number of issues have contributed to these species' decline, the primary threats include habitat loss, degraded water quality, barriers and entrainment, and predation and competition from non-native species. The development of agriculture has led to significant land use alterations and an altered hydrologic regime, and socio-economic concerns have slowed the implementation of restoration.
The goal of Upper Klamath Basin initiative is to restore watershed and water flow conditions in order to support increased distribution and abundance of federally-listed Lost River sucker and shortnose sucker, as well as state sensitive redband trout.
Key conservation strategies for these program include:
- Habitat Restoration and Conservation: Restoration and conservation of key habitats will be accomplished by implementing projects based on integrated strategic planning. This initiative will provide landowners with necessary information and streamline project funding and implementation. It will also develop additional conservation incentives for landowners.
- Water Use Management: In addition to implementing irrigation efficiencies, the initiative will develop structures to facilitate settlement of resource conflicts, and develop a water transaction program acceptable to local landowners. Federal and state natural resource agencies have contributed and will continue to contribute a large portion of the funding for on-the-ground projects. But agencies’ efforts must fit into a more comprehensive, coordinated strategy, and targeted research and monitoring must be done to ensure the restoration investment. Conservation strategies also need to be more finely attuned to local socio-economic circumstances.
- Integrated Strategic Planning & Coordination: The Partnership will work with Basin partners to prioritize the biophysical recovery needs of the fishes, integrate socio-economic impacts on
landowners, clarify roles and coordinate resources for implementation.
- Research, Experiments and Knowledge Gaps: The planning process will help identify knowledge gaps critical to recovering the species. The design and conducting of research and experiments will be completed as needed.
Among other habitat improvements, the Upper Klamath Basin Keystone initiative has funded programs that will soon place 7,900 acres of prime habitat under long term easement, restore 5,172 acres of riparian forest and also restore five springs. These habitat restoration measures are complimented by the success of community outreach, which will help farmers to adopt irrigation efficiency plans over 19,000 acres of farm land.
Applicants should identify how their proposed activities fit within the framework outlined in the Upper Klamath Basin Business Plan.