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Conservationists Hope Smith Won’t Let Politics ‘Water-Down’ Key Decisions

September 10, 2007

Portland, OR – The shake-up over Idaho Senator Larry Craig's possible departure from office has some conservationists worried about the man who could fill his shoes on some key decisions.

Oregon Senator Gordon Smith says he'll gladly take over as the Northwest's representative for timber and other natural resource issues. That concerns Sean Stevens, with the group Oregon Wild, because of Smith's past role in the Klamath Basin water crisis.

"If he's going to support all rural Oregonians, there's a balance to be found between irrigation upstream and the downstream water users, like fishermen, recreation industries and tourism industries."

Stevens points to Senator Smith's support of both sides in the Klamath Basin's water woes at different times.

"Does it mean that he's actually going to step up and be supportive for a whole class of rural Oregonians rather than these individual groups?"

Senator Smith has recently stated he has "no regrets" regarding the federal water decisions in the Klamath Basin that may have helped farmers, but led to disastrous fish kills and the closure of Oregon's commercial salmon seasons in 2005 and 2006.

Dondrea Warner/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR