Help Stop the Water Grab Endangering Klamath Waterfowl!

Help Stop the Water Grab Endangering Klamath Waterfowl!

We need your help to avoid another catastrophic die-off of migratory birds in the Klamath Basin. As millions of migrating birds bear down on the Klamath Basin this spring, the wetlands of Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge may be utterly dry. Lower Klamath, the first federally-designated waterfowl refuge in the nation and one of the most important bird refuges in North America, is facing another drought year. However, in a wildly reckless move, officials recently proposed draining what little water is left in the refuge’s publicly-owned wetlands to serve private agribusiness interests in the federal Klamath Project. If this plan is enacted, millions of birds will be in danger of disease outbreaks and severely limited food and habitat during migration.

On the same day that federal officials announced the proposal to drain refuge wetlands, Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown visited the Klamath Basin to officially declare a drought emergency. Unfortunately, the Governor did not address the refuge’s plight in her public comments and announcement.

Klamath refuge photo by Brett Cole.TAKE ACTION: Please write to Governor Brown today and urge her to demand that Lower Klamath’s water serve its wetland habitats – not private interests – during the spring migration, and to seek long-term solutions that will ensure the Klamath refuges receive adequate supplies of water into the future. We’ve made it easy for you to write to the Governor via the online form below. Please feel free to personalize your email. To increase your effectiveness, a copy of your email will be sent to your U.S. Senators and Representative.


The Klamath Basin is a critical stopover point for migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and other bird species. More than 80 percent of the Pacific Flyway waterfowl population use Klamath Basin wetlands during seasonal migrations.

When few wetland acres are available on these refuges due to lack of water, large numbers of waterfowl pack together during migration periods, leading to lethal disease outbreaks. Refuge staff estimated that some 20,000 birds perished this way in 2014. Similar conditions on these refuges sparked massive waterfowl die-offs in 2012 and 2013. This ongoing neglect of the refuge is harming fish, waterfowl, and other wildlife while degrading the carrying capacity of the entire Pacific Flyway.

Meanwhile, even as of Lower Klamath’s publicly-owned wetlands are in danger of being drained to serve private interests, the refuge continues to lease thousands of acres of would-be refuge wetlands to commercial agribusiness. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has water rights to supply Lower Klamath and neighboring Tule Lake refuge with enough water to provide substantial wetland habitat and food for migratory birds, even during drought. Yet, within both these national wildlife refuges, water deliveries to support commercial agribusiness are already prioritized over water deliveries to support the designated purposes of the refuges themselves, such as wetlands and migratory birds. WaterWatch and our allies are working hard to ensure that these Klamath refuges’ first ever Comprehensive Conservation Plan reverses this damaging and illegal practice, but while that process unfolds, we need your help to make sure the birds get enough water this spring.

Thank you for taking action for the Klamath National Wildlife Refuges!

WaterWatch of Oregon