Good Intentions

| March 25, 2010

Editor:

Your story about retiring US Fish & Wildlife Service manager Phil Detrich provides a fascinating personal perspective on many of the major environmental issues which have impacted the North Coast and Klamath River Basin over the past 20 years ("The Biocrat," March 18). I worked as an environmental activist and Klamath Forest Alliance director on most of those same issues. I know Phil Detrick through that work and I consider him a good man and a friend.

I also believe that we ought to judge Phil's work, my own work and all efforts to protect nature not by whether we had or have good intentions, but rather on whether or not our work has helped to stem the destruction. When this standard is applied, I find Phil's work to be a well intentioned failure. For example:

As you note, Detrich helped Simpson Timber develop the first forest Habitat Conservation Plan. That plan authorized the "take" of 30 pairs of northern spotted owls through the liquidation of their habitat -- old forests. Two years ago that liquidation was complete; Simpson, now rebranded as Green Diamond Resources, applied to the Fish and Wildlife Service to take an additional eight pairs of owls. As mitigation for competition from barred owls, which favor the patchwork of clear cuts, plantations and open forests created by GDR logging, the company proposed shooting them. The eight additional spotted owls approved for "take" are the last owls -- and represent most of the last old forest habitat -- remaining on GDR's North Coast and Klamath holdings.

Is this a "success"? Let the readers judge.

The article did contain an error. Referring to the Klamath Water Deal, Detrich alleges that "some (organizations) walked out on the deal." This is a misrepresentation that appears to be intentional. Oregon Wild and Water Watch -- the groups that champion freeing the Klamath Wildlife Refuges to manage for wildlife, not commercial agriculture -- were "disinvited" from participation in a calculated move that Detrich supported and was involved in implementing.

It is troubling that Phil Detrich is willing to present this fiction as fact. Unfortunately, however, such misrepresentation has become routine among promoters of the Klamath deals. Detrick and others assert that the water deal will be "better for fish" even as they obscure the fact that under the deal fish will get less water than they have under the Endangered Species Act.

Phil Detrich rose to power and influence in the Interior Department during the tenure of Bruce Babbitt. The Babbitt/Clinton ESA policy was to take care of species as much as possible on public land and to provide "relief" from the ESA on private and tribal land. Some of us believe that this policy is wrong. That private property owners have a social and moral responsibility to take care of the species which were residents on the land before them and to wisely and conservatively use the people's water.

Detrich implemented Babbitt's ESA policy loyally. The approach is also reflected in the Klamath Water Deal. It gives the Bureau of Reclamation -- and its specially-treated irrigators -- as close to a guaranteed first call on Klamath River water and "relief" from the ESA as is possible. Only time will tell for sure if this Detrich-involved effort will yield similar results for salmon that the Green Diamond/Simpson HCP has yielded for northern spotted owls. But the "success" of deals Phil Detrich crafted for Green Diamond/Simpson and Pacific Lumber do not bode well for salmon.

Felice Pace, Klamath

Sweet Spot: Felice Pace's characterization of the division of water under the proposed Klamath settlement agreements is suspect -- the agreements themselves specifically state that they do not supercede the ESA -- but the man can write a good letter. He wins a Bon Boniere sundae for sending our favorite one of the week.

Comments (2)

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Mr. Pace is another environmental dilettante looking at the issues through an ideological purist lens. Different content from the Republican teabagger movement but the same approach.
The spotted owl issues are not what were widely believed 20 years ago. They are quite different in the northern and southern parts of the range. In the southern part of the range, spotted owls thrive in mature second growth and the biggest pressure on spotted owl populations is competition from the barred owl in the old growth environment.
If Oregon Wild and Water Watch are upset that they were disinvited from negotiations on the Klamath agreement, they need to look in the mirror before they point fingers. Having an agenda of putting another stakeholder out of business is not a good way to get invited to the negotiating table. Would Mr. Pace insist that teabaggers be invited to negotiate policy on health care?
Really, Mr. Pace, it's time for you and the rest of the HumCo environmentalists to grow up. But I'm not going to hold my breath.

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Posted by Thirdeye on 03/28/2010 at 11:06 AM

I lived and worked on the north coast, occasionally for Simpson, as a contractor, for many years, and I must say the destruction I witnessed while doing that always made me wonder why Simpson was not more of a target ? Why were they allowed to destroy so often, as I witnessed above Korbel, the Klamath watershed, and right along the 299 west, and other places. I moved to Redding, and witnessed the type of folk who make this possible. After all, the key speaker for this years logging conference here in Redding was Sarah Palin !...

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Posted by Michael Shreeve on 04/02/2010 at 11:54 AM
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