Friday, May 09, 2008

Klamath River Nations Confront Warren Buffet Over Salmon Destruction

Warren Buffett Refuses To Meet With Klamath River Tribes And Fishermen

By: Dan Bacher
May 22, 2007

The Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa Valley Tribes and fishermen capped off their historic cross country pilgrimage to Omaha, Nebraska on May 5 with a protest outside the shareholders meeting of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire-Hathaway Corporation. They demanded the removal of four Klamath Dams owned by Berkshire subsidiary PacifiCorp that they contend are largely responsible for the decades-long decline of salmon, steelhead and other species on the Klamath River.

Although Buffett, [the second richest man in the U.S.] never met with the tribes as they had requested, two members of the broad-based coalition were able to ask questions directly to Buffett and his partner Charles Munger before a crowd of 27,000 shareholders. They made the shareholders aware, many for the first time, of the depth and gravity of problems posed to the Klamath’s fisheries and people by the salmon-killing dams.

The pilgrimage to the stakeholders meeting, the “Woodstock of Capitalism,” included press conferences along the way in San Francisco, Sacramento and Salt Lake City, a salmon bake in Omaha on May 3, a traditional brush dance on May 4 and then the protest on May 5.

In a solidarity action with dam removal advocates gathered in Omaha, Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa, and Klamath Tribal members rallied with other Klamath River residents and PacifiCorp ratepayers at the company’s headquarters in Portland on May 4 Ronnie Pellegrini, wife of a commercial salmon fisherman, traveled to Omaha with her two teenage daughters to join in the protest and other events. Her husband, Paul, was salmon trolling off the California coast to take to advantage of a limited salmon season that started May 1.

The PacifiCorp dams – and a change in water policy in 2001 by the Bush administration that favored irrigators in the Klamath Basin over fish that resulted in the adult and juvenile fish kills of 2002 - are key factors in the dramatic decline of salmon fisheries.

Wendy George, council member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe, then told Buffett, "My people are river people. Our entire culture, religion and subsistence is based on the river.”

George appealed to Buffett to meet with the Tribes in order to find a solution to the problem. “In response the normally polished Buffett fumbled through papers to read a written response,” observed Craig Tucker, Klamath Campaign Coordinator for the Karuk Tribe. “Instead of taking responsibility for his company’s actions, Buffett stated that regulators such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would decide the issue.”

Buffett also declined to acknowledge that the Tribes are seeking a negotiated settlement with the company as is common in dam relicensing proceedings.

“I am overwhelmed with disappointment,” emphasized Leaf Hillman of the Karuk Tribe. “Although Mr. Buffett stressed over and over to young investors the importance of researching your investments, he clearly has a poor understanding of Klamath issues.”


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