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River task force marks 18 years
Published June 25, 2004
It was 18 years ago when Keith Wilkinson was
appointed to a newly formed federal task force
assembled to restore salmon runs in the Klamath
Now retired from a career as a river guide and
salmon trawler, he's the only original member left
on the task force that includes representatives of
local, state, federal and tribal governments and
various other interests.
"For the first few years there was a lot of
posturing and gallery play," said Wilkinson, who
brought his experience as a river guide and a
commercial fisherman to the table.
Over the past two decades, the 15-member task
force has funded 320 projects at a cost of $11.2
The panel has received some criticism for the
money spent on administrative costs, but members
said it's expensive to get the group together in
one place, rent meeting spaces and pay for reports
and evaluations of potential projects.
"Fifteen years ago salmon were pretty much a
non-issue," he said, "as opposed to today - they
are a major issue."
Although the early focus of the group was to see
how much on-the-ground work it could get funded
and done, he said now the goal is to lay a
foundation of scientific information that others
can build on.
"As long at there is friction between the upper
and lower Basin, the government is scared to death
to join one side or another," he said.
"We have provided a forum where the diverse
perspectives of the Basin can come together," said
John Engbring, director of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service's California and Nevada region
and task force chair since February 1999.
"I think there is still a lot of work that has to
Irma Lagomarsino, supervisor of the National
Marine Fisheries Service field office in Arcata,
Calif., and a task force member for the last three
years, said the group has funded restoration plans
in many subbasins in the watershed, such as the
Scott and Shasta. In many cases those plans have
yet to be carried out.
The task force has two more annual budgets to
allocate, and six more meetings, two of which will
be in Klamath Falls.
What happens once the sun sets on the task force
is still in the air. Congress could call for an
extension, or it could call for a larger, revised
group that would take its place, or there could be
no group at all.
Wilkinson said he would want to continue work on
reviving the Klamath fisheries if there is some
kind of continuation of the task force. He said
the group provided a place for the groups to find
common ground and move forward.
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