February 10, 2016
Lauren Smith, 503-363-0121
Reckless Oregon Spotted Frog Litigation Threatens Oregon’s Communities
(Salem, OR) — Oregon Water Resources Congress is deeply disappointed by the news that WaterWatch of Oregon and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) have filed a preliminary injunction in federal court requesting an unprecedented reallocation of water supply that thousands of farms, families, and local communities in the Deschutes Basin rely upon.
“It is a travesty that is tantamount to environmental terrorism, if successful, these groups will destroy the livability of the Deschutes Basin, including the ecosystem which they purport to be protecting. It is unfortunate that the actions of rabid litigators masquerading as environmental advocates will cause millions of dollars to be spent on legal costs instead of implementing collaborative common sense solutions to improve water conservation and species habitat. I urge anyone who has donated to either group to question the value of litigation over actual on-the ground projects that benefit endangered and threatened species.” -April Snell, Executive Director, Oregon Water Resources Congress
The actions of WaterWatch and CBD are destroying a multi-year collaborative, science-based effort (The Deschutes HCP) to meet the diverse water supply needs of Deschutes Basin—including specific projects that would actually protect and restore habitat for the Oregon Spotted Frog as well as ESA listed fish species. These actions not only have the potential to inflict catastrophic damage to local farmers and the Deschutes Basin community, but also endangers the quality of life that all Oregonians benefit from. WaterWatch and CBD, out of basin environmental groups, are threatening to pull the Deschutes Basin community apart, and are seeking an untested solution that removes the people impacted the most from participating in its outcome (in court, rather than in a consensus oriented process).
The irrigation districts and numerous other stakeholders (including cities, tribes, agencies, and other environmental groups) have been working diligently and invested millions of dollars to develop and implement science-based solutions that have the best chance of benefitting all threatened and endangered species while ensuring the continued viability of local farms and the community we all share. WaterWatch has been a participating stakeholder throughout the HCP process, and after impersonating a collaborator they are now suing other members of the group.
The work accomplished in the Basin so far has been held up as a national model for collaborative conservation and has been recognized by numerous state and federal funding programs Penalizing the districts and other stakeholders is outrageously counterproductive to the collaborative conservation efforts that Oregon. Furthermore, it impacts similar partnership efforts elsewhere because good faith efforts were not recognized, respected or reciprocated.
Moreover, representatives from WaterWatch have participated in numerous stakeholder groups claiming to be part of a collaborative effort when instead they subversively sought to collect info to use in litigation while simultaneously voting down numerous viable project ideas and hamstringing a basin-wide planning process. They are now asking for the courts to intervene in an unprecedented and severely impactful manner simply because of lack of patience in the very process Water Watch participated in. If granted, the injunction may jeopardize ESA listed fish species and have other serious unintended consequences that result from forcing court action over scientific studies and collaborative on-the-ground projects.
Our focus should be on empowering and encouraging the Deschutes Basin to continue their model conservation work and not threatening the livelihood and sustainability of one of Oregon’s most viable communities.