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In September 2009, after years of bitter fighting, Native American tribes, fishermen, farmers, and utility executives agreed to a plan to remove four dams on the Klamath River in Northern California. The tentative agreement could lead to the biggest dam removal project in world history. It's an unprecedented environmental victory, a move that will open the way for restoring what was once the third largest salmon run in the lower 48 states.

How did it happen? As veteran journalist Jacques Leslie will report, the consenus took years to develop. Back in 2001, at the pinnacle of the conflict, the river basin was divided between farmers and ranchers on one side, Indians and commercial fishermen on the other. They sued one another, denounced one another in the press, and hired lobbyists to pass legislation undermining one another. Drunken goose-hunters discharged shotguns over the heads of Indians and shot up storefronts in the largely tribal town of Chiloquin, Oregon, and an alcohol-fueled argument over water there prompted a white boy to kick in the head of a young Indian, killing him.

Then, a few courageous farmers and Native Americans decided to work together. One of those people was Greg Addington, the executive director of the farmers’ association, who endured fierce criticism from some people he represented for his conciliatory negotiating stance. Now basin allegiances are so jumbled that Addington says, “My friends are my enemies, and my enemies are my friends.”

... Jacques will go inside the communities of the Klamath basin to interview farmers, Native Americans, fishermen, and company executives to uncover how this landmark settlement occurred. The story will chart the emotional ups-and-downs of the multi-year effort, and reveal what it takes to go from enmity to cooperation.

The story is scheduled for publication in the Spring issue of Earth Island Journal.

How will it help?

This story seeks to uncover lessons in what it takes to get adversaries to come together to create environmental solutions.

 
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