The Official Blog of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC)


Bridging the Community Food Divide

Posted by admin on June 21, 2017

by Ramona Taylor

I’ve just finished up another great field trip to the garden and I’m standing on the tailgate of a pick-up truck documenting and counting everything I can: how many students, adults, volunteers, women, and veterans?  I snap a few more quick pictures, trying to get just one more picture-hoping for that perfect one that captures the moment and can show our funders we’re doing a good job.  After five years of helping to host fieldtrips, workshops, and events, I’ve learned to take a moment to bask in the sun, to reflect and enjoy. 

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Here, Mikaila Polmateer does her own basking, taking pride in a carrot she helped to grow at Junction Elementary School.

I take off my “reporting hat” to watch as the gaggle of students and teachers are walking back to the school.  Two students break off from the group at a run in the opposite direction…five years ago, I may have reacted differently, trying to make sure everyone was “doing what they were supposed to,” but instead, I casually ask the boys where they are going.  As they rush by, over his shoulder, one boy yells, “We’re going to get moooorreeere kaaaaaale!”  Sure enough, they ran back to the garden, picked some kale and were happily munching it as they rejoined the group and headed back to their classroom.   Apparently, contrary to popular belief, some kids do like kale!

In that moment, feeling all warm and fuzzy on the inside, I jumped down from the pickup truck and I know we have made a difference.  We’re not just making a difference because now we have a community apple press and a whole array of tools, equipment and infrastructure to grow, gather, process and store food.  We have made a difference because the way we think about food and they way we relate to food and to each other has changed.

This month our community will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Orleans Bridge and over the next few months, the MKWC Community Foodsheds program is winding down a five year food security grant, “Enhancing Tribal Health and Food Security in the Klamath Basin of Oregon And California by Building a Sustainable Regional Food System.”  The project, also known as the Klamath Basin Tribal Food Security Project, is a collaboration with the Karuk, Yurok and Klamath Basin Tribes, UC Berkeley, UC Extension and endless community partners including schools, other non-profits and volunteers.

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Local school kids evaluate their school garden harvest, comparing carrots from Year Two to carrots grown in Year Five.

For evaluation purposes, the questions we answer are: “Did we make a difference, have things changed, are we more food secure or independent?” At first glance, I really don’t know.  I can’t help but draw the comparison of the of the food security project with the Orleans bridge building. When a bridge is complete, you have a tangible result. It can be counted and as long as it provides a way to cross from one side of the river to the other, it is deemed a success. But really, what you get is the connection between two sides of the river, two opposite sides of community that are now connected. However, funders & Congress like to see the numbers & count the bridges.  

So to be accountable, we count and take pictures.  I think we’ve done a good job at documenting the numbers, but I think our success is more intangible. It has been about building bridges.  Clearly not the kind that cross the Klamath, but bridges that connect the communities up and down the river corridor.  We’ve created networks and discovered who some of the movers and shakers are (around food) in each community.  Our pictures capture not just what we can count at the time, but the change over time and the bridges we’ve built.  Children in those early photos have graduated and moved into high school!  School gardens have expanded, or been installed, and grown food that students eat in their lunches (or snack on during trips to the garden).  Heirloom fruit trees nearing the end of their life span have not only been saved from likely extinction, but the oral histories of the varieties have been written down for future generations and in some cases, returned to the families that planted them long ago. We also have a community fruit press that families borrow in the summer and fall.  I love that people stop to talk to our staff about what to do with all these extra eggs/fruit/veggies or how to establish a new bee hive or how do I [insert food or garden topic here]? 

We are not just counting the infrastructure changes and the attendees. We are building bridges that connect people to place and people to people.  We are developing relationships and sharing knowledge in a hands-on, peer-to-peer setting that will last far beyond the “scope and five year time frame” of the funded project. 

With our food security funding winding down, people have approached me, concerned and wondering what will happen to the MKWC Community Foodsheds Program when the funding runs out?  I am happy to say I don’t really know.  It seems like there is so much going on around food these days!

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Locals participate in a workshop in Orleans demonstrating how to build your own chicken tractor!

I believe the community will choose. It doesn’t have to be what was written into a funding proposal. It can be whatever, we as a community, choose to make it.   Even without all the numbers to back me up, I know that our community has changed.  We can literally count our blessings and under the funding, we have purchased some of the equipment we need to gather, process and store food.

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Locals in Happy Camp make good use of the Foodsheds Program cider press!

You could say we are building a more sustainable, independent or sovereign food system.  I think we are building bridges in our community centered around food.  This is the real accomplishment that is impossible to count. These are the intangible results that are worth more than any bar graph or chart or excel sheet.

Reflecting back on what we’ve done in the last five years I am proud to say, that even if nothing else has changed, at least I know those two boys in the garden really like kale!

Want to get involved? You can check us out on facebook Mid Klamath Food Shed or check out all of our gardening resources for the mid Klamath area at our website

This blog post is partially funded by the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture-Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Food Security Grant # 2012-68004-20018.

We are so thankful to the many partners, volunteers and participants who helped span the distance between us and create more Middle Klamath food security in the process. We owe our program’s success to YOU!

Ramona Taylor is the Director of MKWC's Foodsheds Program, an effort that addresses community food needs by building strong relationships, organizing peer-to-peer workshops, events and projects based on seasonal food activities, supporting ongoing initiatives in our community, and providing technical support for building strong school, community and family gardens. 

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by Carol Earnest

As the school year winds down, educators turn to themselves and ask, “So, how did that go?”

For the MKWC Watershed Education Program, the accumulation of nine months worth of field trips, classroom projects, and presentations at five schools prompts program-introspection as we ponder some big questions: How did we do? What can improve? What should never happen again?

Unlike our admirable formal educators, we informal educators do not have the same tools to evaluate success. We do not have continuous contact with students all day, five days a week, where we receive assignments and administer final exams (though we occasionally try to throw  a pre and post test into the mix). Instead, true to our namesake, we rely on informal ways to evaluate our programs.


We use a variety of tools to go about this process. As we walk into a classroom to pick up students for a field trip are we met with smiling faces or rolling eyeballs? These nuggets of feedback are meticulously filed away for future review. Showing up with a platter of muffins? Conducting hands-on experiments involving food coloring? Popular (smiles and enthusiastic nodding were dead giveaways). Trying to convince middle schoolers to pull weeds in 40 degree rainy weather? Eye-roll city.

In addition to body language, car talk is an invaluable source of information. I place the time in the car between school and a field trip site on a shiny golden pedestal of evaluation opportunity. A relaxed car environment with little direct eye contact, where there is a sense of levity as we leave school and head out to the unknown, and where no one can go anywhere, is when some of the best honest feedback flows. For example, while sitting waiting for road workers to let us through a rock slide, I found out that eating lots of fruit is something a student is looking forward to during this year’s Klamath-Siskiyou Outdoor School, and that another student is really not interested in camping outside, ever, and that another student doesn’t like to sit and listen to me talk for long periods of time and would rather get on with the activity. In less than five minutes I learned we needed to buy more fruit, plan more day activities, and spend more time with hands-on projects.

The final, and arguably most entertaining evaluation tool, is informal writing assignments, in the forms of thank you cards and blog posts. Both allow students to reflect, without the worry of being graded. Using the classroom-safe Kidblog program, students have their own accounts where their blog posts are read by their peers and teachers. They can receive comments, and they can upload photos. This creates a sense of ownership and pride in their work, and we find that students are more willing to reflect on activities and showcase what they learned when they get to pick their font color, background photo, and emoji.

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Similarly, thank you cards are not graded and with little effort, they can provide great feedback with some reading between the lines. The teacher gives the assignment and it is often to the point, “write a thank you card.” This simplicity offers a lot of room for creativity. Often they include drawings, questions, stories, and words that I have to look up from students in classrooms with Thesauruses readily available (sagacious?). In these writing assignments, we can pinpoint what the students remember. Are they using a vocabulary word we taught? Are they using a presentation as inspiration for a creative writing piece? Did they draw tree species that we observed? In one set of thank you cards after a garden workday, over half of them mentioned that they enjoying using glitter during the arts and crafts project. Noted.

I will admit that I occasionally allow time for some indulgent blog post and thank you card reading. Feeling uninspired? Read some thank you cards. Trying to remember what we did on that field trip? Read some blog posts. Grant proposal due in an hour? Read some thank you cards. They are a gift that keeps on giving.

Here are some of my favorites:

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While we still continue to administer end of the year written evaluations, I believe, from personal experience, that interpreting body language, having casual conversations, and receiving informal writing assignments, are valuable tools to supplement the more formal written feedback, providing a more in-depth evaluation of program activities. With these techniques we may not be able to definitively say, students showed a 90% improvement in their knowledge of ________, but we can definitively say that 90% of the students left the field trip with smiles and glitter on their faces and some hands on experience improving their watershed.

Carol Earnest is MKWC’s Watershed Education Program Co-Director. She facilitates positive, educational experiences for young people of the Middle Klamath watershed, including field trips with local schools, KSOS, other restoration raft trips and hands on activities at events through MKWC and partner groups. She brings three years of experience working with youth, and a boundless, infectious enthusiasm for natural processes that occur in our ecosystems.

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What's The Dam Difference?

Posted by admin on May 16, 2017

by James Peterson

The Colorado River stretches from areas of Wyoming to its terminus in the Sea of Cortez, a distance of over 1,450 miles.  Hoover Dam was officially christened and open for business in 1936, approximately 30 miles south east of Las Vegas, to use the Colorado’s flow for power and to deliver significant amounts of water to the dry Southwestern United States. This was the first dam constructed along the Colorado River and at the time, was the largest man made structure in the world.  Glen Canyon Dam Map.jpg

The dam stretches up over 700 feet from the river bottom and creates a reservoir that floods 110 miles of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. Engineering and construction of Hoover dam marked the beginning of an unprecedented dam building flurry in the United States unlike the world had ever seen before. The new government agency in charge of taming the Wests wild rivers was the Bureau of Reclamation. Hundreds of dams were built across the West along many of its mightiest rivers and each engineer seemed to want to outdo all others. Shasta Dam, Grand Coulee and Bonneville are a few names that most people living out West have heard of.

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Then, in 1956, construction on the Glen Canyon Dam began. This would be the dam that brought the Colorado into total control of mankind, but, while this dam created a staggering amount of new hydroelectric power, its placement came at a steep price. The dam drowned Glen Canyon beneath a 186-mile-long reservoir.  Many considered this section of the Colorado River canyon to be the Sistine Chapel of canyon country, rivaling anything within Grand Canyon National Park. The BOR and its director Floyd Dominy were also planning to build two other dams inside the heart of Grand Canyon National Park (Marble Canyon Dam and Bridge Canyon Dam) but the public outrage was so great after Glen Canyon that these projects were abandoned in order to finance the Central Arizona Project.Grand Canyon Map.jpg

I recently returned from my second rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. We departed from Lee’s Ferry (just a few miles below Glen Canyon Dam) and ended inside the Lake Meade Reservoir behind Hoover Dam. The last 80 miles of this trip are spent floating the reservoir. Our guide book described the rapids and canyons that we were passing over but all we saw were flat stretches of water and large, sometimes 20-foot-tall, walls of sediment along each side of the river.  During this long and slow part of the trip, I had a good amount of time to imagine the features that were now buried under millions of tons of water, and come to the realization that within my lifetime I will never be able to see what lies beneath these now calmed waters of the Colorado. I will never understand how Major Wesley Powell felt on the third month of his first exploration of the Colorado River, when his expedition encountered yet another marble canyon where the walls close in and the roar of the river overwhelms your senses. 

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As a whitewater kayaking and rafting enthusiast, that is what dams like the ones that have tamed the Colorado River mean to me. They represent a loss of an adventure that could change one’s life and a loss of freedom that one can only feel when out in a distant wilderness.

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This brings me to my main point. With the Klamath Dams slated for removal beginning in 2020, an event that has been 25 years in the making could be just around the corner. If all four Klamath dams are removed, a section of river approximately 70 miles in length that has never been floated in its entirety will be opened for the first time in nearly one hundred years.  

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Instead of algae covered reservoirs, clean flowing water will again cascade through the landscape and a new river trip of epic proportions will be accessible to any who are willing. Outdoor enthusiasts will now be able to tie together the upper and lower Klamath in ways that have not been possible for the past century. A wealth of multi-day trips will now be available along the Upper Klamath River, and, much like when PacifiCorp removed its Condit Dam along the White Salmon River in Washington, this part of the River could become one of the most popular stretches of rafting along the West Coast.

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While the Klamath River and the Colorado are vastly different river systems, they both exemplify the spirit of the wild that has drawn humans to their shores since the dawn of time, and the love of the “Great Unknown” remains the same for many who come. For “we are but pygmies, running up and down the sands or lost among the boulders," in the words of Wesley Powell.Hance Rapid.jpg

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James "Jimmy" Peterson is the Water Monitoring Coordinator at MKWC. He comes from Minnesota, and brings to the Middle Klamath a love for water and fish and a sense of stewardship for those resources that transcends borders. 

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Collaboration ≠ Compromise

Posted by admin on April 17, 2017

by Luna Latimer 

An incredible change unfolding in the Western Klamath Mountains needs to be celebrated. Five years ago the Western Klamath Restoration Partnership (WKRP) did not exist and trust was in short supply. Proposals like the Orleans Community Fuels Reduction Project stalled out in this environment. Through the WKRP process, the partners have bought into a process where we can build from our common ground, and in which none of us have to give up our values in order to work together. This is a truly collaborative process. “Collaboration” and “Compromise” are terms often confused. But the difference between these two terms is more than semantics. I think the difference between these two words is the reason for the difference in the two press releases for the OCFR project.

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Pictured above: At left, Karuk tribal members and concerned citizens blocked a logging road to halt work on the Orleans Community Fuels Reduction Project. At right, several years later, a group of Western Klamath Restoration Partnership participants celebrate work starting on the project with implementation by the Karuk Tribe and MKWC's crews. 

The  Western Klamath Restoration Partnership (WKRP) launched a precedent-setting phase of the OCFR in 2016. The project is aimed at restoring forests while keeping local communities safe from uncontrolled wildfire. This is a new era for the OCFR - a project that had a rocky start in 2008. The press release last year was titled: Klamath communities collaborate to manage forests and work with fire. Five years ago, the press on this project on page 7 of the Karuk Tribe's newsletter: Karuk Takes on Forest Service: Orleans Community Fuels Reduction Plan Desecrates Sacred Areas.

When we compromise, we may get our needs partially met, but not completely. This is not the WKRP model of collaboration. At WKRP workshops and meetings, there is a culture of only moving forward if we are in agreement. People who work together in this process often say:  we “don’t have to give up an arm or a leg” to work together. This model of collaboration represents a breakthrough. So many of us that are working with WKRP on a day-to-day basis take this model of collaboration for granted. Other people may not understand how different this is than previous collaborative efforts on the Klamath. The WKRP seeks to build trust and a shared vision for restoring fire resilience at the landscape scale. There is good reason why these two items – trust and a shared vision – are put together. This Partnership has allowed diverse stakeholders to come together to accomplish work by identifying Zones of Agreement where all parties agree upslope restoration needs to occur. Together, we created a plan for restoring fire resilience at the landscape scale. 

Please be a part of this collaborative vision. You can subscribe to semi-monthly e-newsletters by emailing You can see what is happening on Facebook. The WKRP website will be launching soon, and we’d love for you to browse through it and add your voice to the ongoing dialogue about how to bring good fire back to this place where it once had a major role to play in keeping our forests and communities healthy. 

Luna Latimer is a Director of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council. She has worked with MKWC since 2003 when she was doing graduate research with the Orleans/Somes Bar Fire Safe Council. She is a fifth generation forest worker from Southern Oregon and currently lives in Orleans, CA. She received a Master’s degree in Applied Anthropology from Oregon State University with a focus on forest restoration projects on private land within the middle Klamath. Luna works with private landowners, agencies, contractors and non-profit organizations to restore both upslope and in-stream ecosystems.


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The World According To Salmon

Posted by admin on July 18, 2016

by James Peterson

IMG_0143-COLLAGE.jpgIn the world according to salmon, the rivers and streams dictate their choices in life. If the flows are
high and the water is cold, they are more likely to be able to complete their life cycles and ensure the future of their species in their offspring. If the flows are low and the water is warm, their chances of successfully surviving to spawn become much more challenging. As many of us along the River know, most salmon species die after spawning, and from the time they return to fresh water, their journey towards their natal streams will be their lives terminus. Their sacrifice and determination is almost Shakespearean in its tragedy and beauty.

 After five years of intensive drought conditions, Northern California benefitted from a slight respite this year, and winter conditions were more along the lines of a normal weather pattern for this region. To give you an example of this, last year in mid-June (6/15/15) the Klamath River at Orleans was flowing at a rate of 2,250 cubic feet per second (CFS) and a temperature of 73 degrees Fahrenheit.  This year mid-June (6/15/16) the river is flowing at 3,870 CFS and a temperature of 63 degrees Fahrenheit. To put that in context, one cubic foot of water is roughly equivalent to one basketball full of water per second.  71 degrees Fahrenheit is the beginning of the stressful temperature range for juvenile salmonids and over 75 degrees can be lethal.

IMG_0563.JPGThe conditions this year are hands down a whole lot better than last year. For the past ten years, MKWC in partnership with the Karuk Tribal Fisheries Program, and various other state and federal agencies, have been constructing off-channel habitats along key tributaries to the Klamath River. Juvenile fish looking to escape high winter flows and stressful or even lethal summer temperature conditions in the Klamath River and its tributaries utilize these habitats in order to survive. Two of the newest constructed ponds along Middle Creek, a tributary to Horse Creek, have their first cohorts of juvenile coho salmon moving into them as creek flows begin to drop.

Many of these fish will stay in the ponds all summer and possibly even through next winter if they like the conditions. Fish utilizing these ponds have been shown to have a survival rate of two to six times higher than fish that don’t.  To date, MKWC has constructed 12 off-channel ponds throughout the Klamath basin and all of them have seen use by juvenile and sometimes adult coho salmon. Some ponds even hold several thousand juvenile fish during parts of the year. Some fish that were marked as juveniles in these ponds have returned several years later as adults and been detected spawning in areas along Seiad Creek, showing that these ponds are beginning to produce adult fish! By the summer of 2017, several more of these ponds will be constructed as safe havens for these determined little fish to shelter in.


These habitats along the margins of a stream may not look like much to a casual onlooker, but when your whole world revolves around survival against steep odds, these side-channel sanctuaries can make a big difference, and in the world according to salmon, every little bit helps. 

Photo 1: Juvenile coho salmon rearing in ponds constructed along Middle Creek  6/7/2016.

Photo 2: Juvenile coho and Chinook in O’Neil Creek Pond. 

Photo 3: Goodman Pond constructed by MKWC in collaboration with the Karuk Tribe and other partners offers refuge from Middle Creek flows. 

Photo 4: O'Neil Creek Pond.

James "Jimmy" Peterson is the Water Monitoring Coordinator at MKWC. He comes from Minnesota, and brings to the Middle Klamath a love for water and fish and a sense of stewardship for those resources that transcends borders. 


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