The Chattanoogan reports that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says over 10,000 birds have died at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge in California/Oregon, and the death toll may be closer to 20,000 birds.
Due to drought conditions, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation hasn’t allowed water into the refuge since December, and the refuge may dry up in a few months if it is not given its far share of water. Due to the water shortage, birds are being forced into more crowded areas, which is encouraging the spread of fatal avian cholera among the birds.
“The consequences to shutting off water to the Lower Klamath Refuge are enormous and unacceptable. We cannot continue to place wildlife at the bottom of the pecking order for so many things and not expect that at some point, we won’t face dire repercussions. Federal, state, and local officials need to come up with a plan that divides the water shortage compromises up more equitably,” said Dr. George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy.
In the Klamath Basin, less than 25% of the historic wetlands remain, and the national wildlife refuges that comprise the Klamath Basin NWR Complex are vital to protecting this important wetland habitat, which has been called the “Everglades of the West.”