29 May 2010, 11:24am
Latest Wildlife News
by admin

Agency cancels meeting over protest fears

By TIM HEARDEN, Capital Press, May 28, 2010 [here]

A California state official cited fears of “armed civil disobedience” as a reason for canceling a meeting with ranchers about special permits required for water diversions.

One of the ranchers called the explanation “despicable” and said it’s “another example of how bureaucracy has lost touch with the person who’s putting the food on their table.”

The tempers are flaring over the state Department of Fish and Game’s plan to implement a watershed-wide permitting program in two remote valleys of Siskiyou County near the Oregon state line.

Mark Stopher, the department’s acting regional manager, canceled a workshop in Etna, Calif., on March 27 because he couldn’t be there and didn’t want to expose subordinates to what he heard would be a vocal protest, he said.

“I’ve stood up in front of angry crowds,” said Stopher, who is based in Redding, Calif. “I’m a little hesitant to put some of my biologists out there who haven’t had the same experience. … It became likely that we were not going to be able to achieve the purpose of our meeting.”

Stopher said he received several calls about people discussing armed rebellion and that “I tend to discount that,” but “there’s a possibility that somebody would do something to get arrested.”

When told of Stopher’s remarks, Etna rancher Jeff Fowle said ranchers in the Scott and Shasta valleys have always acted civilly and professionally with Fish and Game officials but were bothered by the way the agency was approaching the permits.

“I know there are a multitude of people and families who are upset with this entire process and upset with the way that Fish and Game has gone about informing the public,” Fowle said. “They have been very bold and distasteful in the process and I know that that has negatively influenced probably the majority of the residents of this valley.”

Ranchers in the Scott and Shasta river watersheds have been told they could face fines or jail if they don’t participate in a watershed-wide permitting program or obtain streambed alteration and incidental take permits on their own. The state is trying to preserve populations of threatened coho salmon.

Some ranchers assert the state is violating their water and property rights by requiring the permits, which would involve inspections of their land and cost an estimated $100 to $200 a year for each cubic foot per second of water to which a landowner is entitled. … [more]



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