Management shift dooms local
Herald and News February 9, 2003, by guest
columnist Henry Christensen, Klamath Falls. Author
Henry Christensen of Tulelake, California, is (was)
a retired employee of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service,
who worked on the Tule Lake and the Lower Klamath
Page D-8 Viewpoints
To submit a Letter to the Editor:
This years' waterfowl hunting season, which
turned out to be a total disaster, prompted me to do
What I found was, after the war, a handful of ex-G.I.s
built a terrific refuge complex. It was the
showplace of the United States and probably, the
Waterfowl numbers peaked at as high as seven
million. There were thousands of shorebirds, there
were more than twenty thousand pheasants on the
refuges, chukars were introduced and flourished,
quail were everywhere and there were thousands of
sage grouse on the Clear Lake refuges.
The question is, what happened?
Unfortunately, as the dedicated U.S. Fish &
Wildlife Service workers left, they were replaced
primarily with office personnel. As a result, for
more than twenty years, from the early 1970s until
the early 1990s, there was virtually no botulism and
cholera control, resulting in losses of as high as
100,000 waterfowl per year.
When you add in lost production, you are talking
about millions of birds. The duck hospital was
allowed to deteriorate, and the holding pen was torn
The predator control program was stopped,
resulting in heavy nest losses to predators.
Sage grouse on Clear Lake were virtually wiped
out. Chukars were completely killed off, pheasants
reduced from more than 20,000 to only a few hundred.
This years' waterfowl numbers peaked out at
661,000, down more than ninety percent from what was
on the refuge when the area was the showplace of the
world. That's approximately 6.5 million birds.
The raising of Hennichin barley by the Fish &
Wildlife Service (preferred by waterfowl) was phased
out, leaving upland game birds and both resident and
migrating waterfowl totally dependent for food on
what's produced by local farmers and ranchers, both
on and off the refuges.
Over a period of time, the Fish & Wildlife
Service allowed the thousands - and probably
hundreds of thousands - of fish that were in Lower
Klamath Lake, Tulelake and in the Lost River
adjacent to the Tulelake Refuge to be destroyed
without lifting a single finger to stop it.
Consequently, the thousands of fish-eating birds
and many of the ducks that depend on aquatic insect
life and aquatic plant life for food are gone, and
if something isn't done to stop the killing, they
will never return.
After the hard winter of 1993, I asked one of the
Fish & Wildlife Service biologists why they didn't
feed the pheasants, chukars and quail, and was told
[that] they are exotic birds and we don't care if
About the same time, I asked another biologist
why they didn't pick up the waterfowl that were
dying from cholera. I was told [that] most were snow
geese and [that] they stop in Summer Lake and Warner
Valley in Oregon and there are plenty in this
valley, so we don't care if they die.
With this kind of people in charge, it's hard to
envision the refuges ever being rebuilt.
This year the Fish & Wildlife Service, in
conjunction with the California Waterfowl
Association (CWA), opened Frys Island and the Lower
Sump, on Tule Lake, for hunting. They were two of
the few places the waterfowl, that still use the
Tule Lake Refuge, could rest in peace. The Fish &
Wildlife Service also spent thousands of dollars
building elaborate hunting blinds on them, enabling
the hunters to kill the few birds that still use
Tule Lake and Lower Klamath are waterfowl
refuges, not hunting preserves.
Thousands of bird watchers and hunters flocked to
the area, giving local businesses a much-needed shot
in the arm each year. Unfortunately, they have been
reduced to a mere trickle, resulting in the town of
Tulelake slowly, but surely, dying. Another hunting
season like this one will see more businesses
An article on the front page of the Herald and
News quoted the refuge manager as saying [that] they
had quit operating the refuges for migratory
waterfowl and shifted efforts to eagles, and it
shows. Let's face the facts - the refuges are
Author Henry Christensen of Tulelake, California,
is a retired employee of U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service, who worked on the Tule Lake and the Lower
Klamath wildlife refuges.