When Wildlife Protection Goes Too Far

"We need water! We need water!" That's the refrain from farmers up in Klamath Falls, Ore. Their fields have dried up, and some farmers have even lost their farms — all because of a fish known as the short-nosed sucker.

There's a lake full of water in Klamath Falls, but last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ordered the irrigation gates from the lake closed — meaning 1,000 farmers could not water their crops.

The agency's bureaucrats closed the gates because the short-nosed sucker, one of the fish found in the lake, is listed as endangered. There are lots of sucker fish in America, but the bureaucrats decided this species of suckers needed protection. They said keeping a certain amount of water in the lake was critical to the suckers' survival.

"They're stealing these people's land. It's not right," said one man at a protest rally last summer. "Give 'em their water back! You're destroying lives here!"

The farmers' neighbors came to their aid. Breaking the law, they jumped a fence and opened the floodgates.

Then the police came and stood watch while the bureaucrats closed the gates again. The police stayed all summer guarding the valves.

"They are destroying 1,400 families over a fish that is not really even in trouble out here," said another man at the protest.

Not even in trouble? Well, oops, it turns out that as far as water levels go, that's true. The National Research Council now says the sucker didn't need as much water as the government environmentalists claimed. The farmers could have had some of their precious water.

So did Fish and Wildlife apologize to the farmers? No.The farmers say government's biologists don't seem very concerned about people.

"This country has placed more value upon a fish than on its own citizens," said farmer Stan Thompson.

Lynx Study Irks Locals

Really? Government wildlife experts would value animals over humans? Maybe. After all, look what they did with the Canada lynx. The lynx is an explosive issue. An environmental group even burned down a ski lodge in Vail because they thought it might threaten the lynx.

There are tens of thousands of these adorable animals throughout North America, but because the bureaucrats weren't sure there were any of them in southern Washington state, they commissioned $1 million study to find out.

To try to lure the lynx they hung shiny pans from trees. They placed pieces of carpet soaked with a catnip mixture on the trees, hoping the lynx would then rub up against them and leave some fur. Sure enough, the samples the biologists sent to the lab contained hairs from a Canada Lynx.

Finding a threatened species can set in motion a series of events that can wreck your life if you're a rancher or farmer, and spoil a vacation if you're someone who wants to drive into the woods. "Area closed" can be the result when endangered species are found. Ranchers worried that the lynx could do to them what the sucker fish did to the farmers in Klamath Falls.

"It would have definitely jeopardized my family operation, put us out of business," said one Washington rancher, Neil Kaiser.

Lots of people in southern Washington are scared of the government's environmental police.

"We basically say if you have an endangered species in your area, we are going to take your livelihood away, we're going to destroy your communities, and we're going to make it very difficult for your families to survive," said Mike Paulson, a local land rights activist.

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