The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has determined that there was “no sound scientific basis” for the federal government’s decision to deny irrigation water to more than 1,000 farms in Oregon’s Klamath Basin during last summer’s drought. A panel of 12 independent scientists, convened at the behest of Interior Secretary Gale Norton, concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that withholding the water helped protect endangered suckers and threatened coho salmon. Although the decision is a triumph for the area’s farmers, who drew national attention with demonstrations and protests last year, the NAS was careful to avoid faulting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which made the decision to preserve water. The scientists instead praised the effort to protect fish and criticized the lack of funding to implement protection plans and conduct additional scientific studies.

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