Farmers left high and dry in suckerfish battle

A A A

The White House is under intense pressure to weaken provisions in American laws designed to protect endangered species, as conservatives flock to support several hundred farmers in rain-starved southern Oregon who have been barred this year from drawing water to irrigate their land.

The White House is under intense pressure to weaken provisions in American laws designed to protect endangered species, as conservatives flock to support several hundred farmers in rain-starved southern Oregon who have been barred this year from drawing water to irrigate their land.

Federal officials issued an order in April suspending irrigation rights in the area because severe drought con- ditions had lowered water levels in nearby Upper Klamath Lake so drastically as to imperil two varieties of bottom-feeding suckerfish – both legally protected endangered species.

The ban is still in place, and suddenly the plight of the farmers – many of whom have seen their crops wrecked – is drawing sympathy from conservative groups who have long campaigned for a loosening of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. A similar battle erupted nearly a decade ago, when concern for the spotted owl brought some western logging projects to an abrupt halt.

The two sub-species in question can grow to three feet in length, are almost inedible and have been on the endangered list since 1988.

"It's time to amend the Endangered Species Act," declared Jim Gibbons, a Rep- ublican member of Congress. "We can't save every species, and maybe that's the way it should be."

Members of Congress have formally asked the Interior Department to consider allowing special dispensation to allow the farmers to override the Endangered Species Act and resume irrigation. The last time such an exception was considered was during the battle over the spotted owl.

The controversy comes at a difficult time for the Bush administration. While it might instinctively side with the farmers and the Republican politicians on the issue, it has already suffered in public opinion polls for appearing to be too indifferent to environmental protection priorities.

The US Congress is likely soon to award $20m (£14m) in emergency aid to the area, though the losses of the farmers has been put at $250m (£180m).

Environmental groups have proposed a government programme to buy out the farmers, around 1,400 of whom have been affected by the irrigation ban.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor