Central Oregon Irrigators are Violating the Endangered Species Act by Harming the Spotted Frog

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Central Oregon Irrigators are Violating the Endangered Species Act by Harming the Spotted
As central as any other aspect of America’s heritage, private property ownership and
control defines who the American person is, and is a major driving force for the society. The
highlight is emphasized in Archer’s book “architecture and suburbia,” where the central focus is
that individual freedom, autonomy, and individuality are closely tied to the ownership of
property in the American society (296). The indication is that property ownership and control,
which is in some cases conflicting with environmental and species protection is an organizing
principle for the people and the government. In many instances, environmental laws challenge
the American views on private property, often times imposing restrictions on the use of land and
other resources, which should be a private choice, assigning more significance to the public
benefit. One of the laws that have triggered a very direct impact on private property use and
management is the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which imposes restrictions on the use and
management of natural resources such as water and land. One case that highlights the restricting
effects of the Endangered Species Act is that of Washington Ranchers, who are forced to
manipulate harvest times and water movement for the benefit of threatened frog species in the
area (Pacific Legal Foundation). This report explores the ways Central Oregon irrigators are in
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violation of the Endangered Species Act; due to the ways, their operations are harming the
spotted frog species found in the area.
Background to the Scope of Endangered Species Act and its Effectiveness
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a law passed by the Congress in 1966, to bolster
the efforts already in place to protect endangered species (Baur, Irvin and American Bar
Association 12). The law provides directives on the conservation, restoration, protection, and
propagation of the species at the risk of extinction, including native fish, wildlife, and other
animals (Baur, Irvin and American Bar Association 12). The major challenges in the way of the
adoption of the law are the fact that it challenges many of the established practices of private
property use and management, including farming and irrigation activities. Over the years that the
law has been in place, the legal battles and other attempts to safeguard property rights have
influenced the recent changes of the law, and also the prospective benefits that the species it
protects can offer. Using legal channels, the efforts made by property owners challenging the law
includes mounting political pressure aimed at changing the law and the models used for its
administration (Baur, Irvin and American Bar Association 31). Fortunately, the years of
controversy and activism has transformed the ESA law into one of the most effective and
innovative environmental protection laws. Over the years, the law has proved effective due to the
ways it offers a flexible species protection model and strategies through the approach of habitat
The Problems Central Oregon Irrigators Create, Indicating the Violation of the Act
Many accounts have explored the various problems and issues cited as violations of the
endangered species Act. In that line of though, exploring the scope of the problem indicates
probable cause. The account by Perkowski and the court case between the “Center for Biological
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Diversity” and the “U.S. Bureau of Reclamation” explore the scope of the problems. In the end,
the court case was settled, but that does not indicate that their practices of the irrigators did not
amount to a violation (Perkowski). The account is that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation violates
ESA through its continued operation and maintenance of Wickiup Dam and Crane Prairie Dam,
and the respective reservoirs, which adversely impact the spotted frog species in the area. The
most affected area, according to the accounts is the Upper Deschutes Basin, due to the ways the
operations in the area alter the normal flow of water, and thus alter the habitats close to the
reservoir and further downstream along the river (Advocates for the West 1; Perkowski). The
adverse effects of the activities present the potential of species loss and compromise the
wellbeing of the frog species.
The effects of the operation and maintenance of the reservoirs and dams include that in
downstream habitats and those surrounding the reservoirs, leaves tadpoles and eggs stranded and
shriveled. Further, the limited flow of the river during the winter season reduces the habitats of
the spotted frogs in the areas downstream to the reservoirs, which further reduces the species’
ability to recreate and regenerate to restore lost populations (Perkowski). Additionally, the
manipulation of the flow of the river’s water makes it more challenging for the frog species to
move from one site to another, and thus limiting their opportunity for genetic exchange. The
resultant problems include that the spotted frogs’ species has changed to form distinctive sub-
populations in the various habitats, due to the limited levels of genetic exchange (Advocates for
the West 1). The wide scope of the problem calls for a closer examination of the specific
violations that the continuation of irrigation activities presents.
In a more specific way, the advocates presenting the case challenging the continued
operation and maintenance of the two dams and the respective reservoirs noted the specific
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impacts that the activities have triggered. The reported impacts include the reduction in the
distribution, numbers, and genetic diversity of the spotted frog species found at the Upper
Deschutes River Basin (Advocates for the West 1). Further, the activities of the irrigators have
continually injured and led to the death of individual frogs and tadpoles, and also the loss of egg
masses due to the lack of water, in the areas where it should have been available. Further, the
Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) did not do the necessary consultations with the US Fish and
Wildlife Services regarding the impacts that the activities done at the two dams would have on
Oregon spotted frog. More importantly, despite the documented failure, the BOR continues to
operate the Wickiup and Crane Prairie dams and reservoirs, despite the indisputable evidence
that doing so harms the spotted frogs’ habitat and thus the entire species (Advocates for the West
2). BOR’s failure to do the necessary consultation and to investigate the problems that operating
the two facilities causes; signifies the likelihood that they are violating the act. Further, the
harmfulness of the activities warrants the pronouncement of injunctive action to provide the
necessary protection for the species, and also stop the violation of the law, as the necessary
consultations are done.
Evaluation of the Violation of the Endangered Species Act by Central Oregon Irrigators
This section explores the actions of the Central Oregon irrigators, towards establishing
whether their actions amount to the violation of the Endangered Species Act. The eleven sections
of the Act highlight the provisions that provide a framework for the protection of the
environment and regenerating the aspects that are lost (Totoiu et al. 11). Firstly, the basic policy
scheme provides crucial guidelines on the species it protects, and those requiring recovery,
namely those that are threatened or facing the threat of extinction. The ideal place to start is
determining whether the actions of the irrigators amount to a violation. In essence, it is crucial to
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explore whether the spotted frog species is categorized as threatened or facing the threat of
extinction. According to British Columbia’s “Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection,”
Oregon spotted frog is an endangered species facing the threat of extinction, and that answers the
fundamental question (2).
The reasons underlying the endangerment of the frog species is primarily the loss of its
wetland habitat, due to the development projects that come with the spread of urbanization
(Goble, Scott and Davis 229). In other areas, the wetlands have been drained, diked, or filled to
create spaces for raising livestock or holding water for purposes such as irrigation. The second
reason is the one that clearly explains the threat facing the frog species in Central Oregon, where
the water that supplied the wetlands is held in the reservoirs, leading to the loss of the habitat
(Perkowski). With the information in mind, it is evident that Oregon spotted frog falls under the
endangered species category, and threats to their existence amount to the violation of the
Endangered Species Act. The facts above indicate that the irrigators in the area are in violation of
the Act, and that warrants that the government and other agencies take the action required to
challenge the activities.
Secondly, section 4 of the Endangered Species Act outlines the course and process to
take to designate a particular area or environment as a critical habitat. The process entails the
aspects of the particular environments that are crucial to the survival of the species in question.
The process of identifying crucial habitats is not limited to federally owned and controlled lands
such as forests, but also the private lands and areas owned by private landowners (Goble, Scott
and Davis 229). The provision clarifies the course of identifying whether the central Oregon
irrigators are acting in ways that violate the ESA, considering the types of lands covered by the
development in question. The dams and reservoirs cited as the cause of the threats to the loss of
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habitat in Central Oregon fall under different types of ownership, but as section 4 highlights, the
ownership of the habitat is not an important question (Goble, Scott and Davis 229). The nature of
the areas around the dams and reservoirs, as well as, those downstream indicates that the area is a
critical habitat for Oregon spotted frog. The area meets the threshold of categorization is a
critical habitat, considering that the river supplies the water needed to render the areas around the
river, dams, and reservoirs wetlands. Considering that the spotted frog, according to British
Columbia, the species is under threat due to the loss of the wetland habitat, it is clear that the
area is a crucial habitat that deserves protection, so as to restore the species (2). The fact that the
loss of the critical habitat is the cause of the loss of the species, in turn, clearly points out that the
irrigators are in violation of the ESA.
Thirdly, the Endangered Species Act envisioned a situation such as that in Central
Oregon, considering that the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), which is a government institution
under the department that oversees the management of water resources. The directive is provided
in section 7 of the Act, prohibiting the actions by the government or a government agency that
can compromise the existence of an endangered or threatened species (Baur and Irvin 105).
Further, the section prohibits any actions by the government that threatens to modify or destroy a
critical habitat. The provision was adopted in anticipation of the actions of groups such as
farmers, who may call for government involvement in the attempt to use a habitat such as a
wetland, for example, development purposes. In the case of Central Oregon’s farmers, the
involvement of the Bureau of Reclamation in safeguarding the actions of the irrigators is clearly
anticipated in the law, and that demonstrates the violation of the Act. In essence, it is not
excusable that the dams and reservoirs are managed and operated by the BOR, a government
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agency, considering that the use of the habitat threatens its loss and thus the loss of the frog
species (Baur and Irvin 105).
In light of the challenge that the government agency presents in the way of habitat
protection, it is clear that both BOR and the irrigators are violating the Endangered Species Act.
In line with the provisions of the Act, the activities should be petitioned, which will address the
current violation, and protect the frog species under threat. Further, wherever it is necessary that
a critical habitat is put to alternative use, the government agency or institution should consult
with the National Marine Fisheries Service or the Fish and Wildlife Service, to get permission
for use (Baur and Irvin 162). Following the consultation, the BOR and the irrigators seeking to
use the land can get permission or denial of use, depending on the evaluation by the two
responsible agencies (Baur and Irvin 162). The highlight by that the BOR did not consult the
Fish and Wildlife Service on the use of the land indicates that the violation of the Act, and thus
there is need to take the necessary action (Advocates for the West 2). The Bureau of Reclamation
further reinforces the fact that the use of the land amounts to a violation of the Act.
Lastly, in section 9, the Act prohibits the activity of any person or agency that takes the
species listed as threatened or endangered, unless they are permitted to do so. According to the
guidelines of the Act, the word “taking” a listed species is broadly used to mean harming,
harassing, shooting, hunting, trapping, killing, capturing, or wounding, among other actions that
harm animal and plant species (Baur and Irvin 6). In light of the directives provided in section 9
of the Act, the activities of both the Bureau of Reclamation and the irrigators operating in the
Central Oregon area. The evidence of the violation of the Act is that the activities of the
irrigators are harmful to the existence and wellbeing of Oregon spotted frog species that live in
the area, as noted by Advocates for the West (2). As an example, by redirecting water from the
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area, the BOR and the irrigators lead to the death of frogs and eggs, which is harmful to the
species. Overall, the evidence of a violation warrants taking corrective legal action.
The practice of property ownership is essential to the identity of the American people and
is thus a crucial organizing principle for both the people and the government. Unfortunately,
some laws threaten the rights and access to property ownership and one such law is the
Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Act has attracted controversy since it was passed during the
1960s, mainly due to the ways it curtails private property rights. Over the years that the Act has
been in place, it provides a crucial framework for the protection of the environment, although it
has also been challenged and changed in some ways. From the review of the actions of the
irrigators operating in Central Oregon, the highlights gathered include that they create various
problems that demonstrate the violation of the act. The problems include the diversion of water
from the areas that it is supposed to feed, to keep them a wetland habitat. The evaluation of the
problems in light of the Act showed that the irrigators and the Bureau of Reclamation violated
the Act, and thus warrants the attention of environmental protection agencies.
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Works Cited
Advocates for the West. “Center for Biological Diversity (Plaintiff) v. U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation (Defendant).” Biologicaldiversity, 2015. https://goo.gl/KMKGFK
Archer, John. Architecture and Suburbia: From English Villa to American Dream House, 1690-
2000. Minneapolis: University of Minesota Press, 2005. Print.
Baur, Donald, and Irvin, William. Endangered Species Act: Law, Policy, and Perspectives.
Chicago, Ill: American Bar Association, Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources,
2010. Print.
Baur, Donald, Irvin, William, and American Bar Association. Endangered Species Act: Law,
policy, and perspectives. Chicago, Ill: American Bar Association, Section of
Environment, Energy, and Resources, 2010. Print.
British Columbia. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection. Oregon Spotted Frog: This
endangered amphibian is at risk due to loss of shallow wetland habitat to agriculture and
development. British Columbia Government, 2002. https://goo.gl/XztMik
Goble, Dale, Scott, Michael, and Davis, Frank. The Endangered Species Act at Thirty.
Washington: Island Press, 2006. Internet resource.
Pacific Legal Foundation. “Illegal Endangered Species Act Regulation Makes Washington
Ranchers a Threatened Species.” YouTube, uploaded by Pacific Legal Foundation, 4 Aug
2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMHjn91AyHY
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Perkowski, Mateusz. “Oregon spotted frog lawsuit settled.” Capital Press, 28 Oct. 2016.
Totoiu, Jason, Bourdreaux, Paul, Hamann, Richard, Grosso, Richard, Macdonald, Laurie, and
Rohlf, Daniel. “Protecting Florida’s waters and wildlife through the endangered species
Act: White paper.” Everglades Coalition Conference, 12 Jan. 2013.

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