An ongoing drought has prompted federal authorities to cut off water going to farms in southern Oregon from the Upper Klamath Basin on the California-Oregon border because dangerous low water levels threaten an endangered fish species, CNN reports.
The problem comes from a “geo-scaping” project undertaken more than a century ago that funneled water from the Klamath Basin away from Native American lands and into the farms of white settlers in southern Oregon. Over the years, the tribes have regained some of the water rights, but it’s now pitted the tribes against federal agencies, farmers and environmentalists.
The geo-scaping ultimately led to two species of fish in the basin that are important to the culture of the Klamath tribes of the region.
Now, as a drought continues, the various parties are facing off against each other. Farmers are watching crops dry up as their water supply is cut or eliminated, pushing them to consider force to get the water running again.
“We’re here because we’re trying to stand up for our private property,” farmer Dan Nielsen said. “We’ve been trying to be nice, but we’re getting to the end of the rope. You just go in there and pull the bulkheads and open the headgates. We’re going to do it peacefully, unless the federal government turns on us like they usually do.”
The farmers have gained the support of rancher Ammon Bundy, who had become an anti-government activist relating to the federal regulation of lands and natural resources. Bundy had an armed standoff with federal agents after refusing to pay taxes, fees and penalties for allowing his cattle to graze on federal lands.