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Feds must create conservation plans for Lower Klamath, Tule Lake wildlife refuges

By Kelly House
The Oregonian

Federal fish and wildlife managers must complete a plan to ensure commercial activities at two Northwest federal wildlife refuges do not harm wildlife, a U.S. District Court judge has ruled.

Feds must create conservation plans for Lower Klamath, Tule Lake wildlife refuges

Drought in 2013 hit the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge particularly hard. (Beth Nakamura/ The Oregonian)

Federal fish and wildlife managers must complete a plan to ensure commercial activities at two Northwest federal wildlife refuges do not harm wildlife, a U.S. District Court judge has ruled.

Magistrate Judge Mark Clark's preliminary ruling Thursday calls upon the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete a Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the Lower Klamath and Tule Lake refuges, both of which are near the Oregon-California border.

A 1997 law mandates such plans for every national wildlife refuge unit in the nation. Clark's ruling requires Fish and Wildlife to complete a plan by August 2016.

Environmentalists sued the federal government for failing to craft a plan by the 2012 deadline. They argue  agribusiness leases in the refuge frequently compete with critical bird habitat for limited water resources. This winter, large swaths of the Lower Klamath refuge went dry, forcing waterfowl to seek more hospitable land.

"This is good news for anyone who cares about wildlife like bald eagles, sandhill cranes, and white pelicans," Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director for the Audubon Society of Portland, said in a statement. "Time and time again, we have seen wetlands and wildlife areas on these refuges starved for water, while land leased to commercial agribusiness is fully irrigated. This has to stop."

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