Conservation & Durability

November 6, 2014

A parcel of forest only needs to be clearcut once to destroy most of its ecological value for decades and decades. On the other hand, conservation requires constant, long-term, robust protection. That is why, as the Board of Forestry writes a new plan for managing the Tillamook & Clatsop state forests, conservation commitments need to be real–long-lasting, appropriately managed, and mapped.

Buster Creek, Clatsop state forest (photo by Chris Smith)

Buster Creek, Clatsop state forest (photo by Chris Smith)

Current “High Value Conservation Areas,” which we fought hard for for several years, represent an important step forward for the Oregon Department of Forestry. Their designation (covering 140,000+ acres state-wide) has helped to frame the process that will result in a new Forest Management Plan. In part because of these new designations, the Board is strongly pursuing a “land allocation” approach, which will see a conservation zone, a timber-emphasis zone, and possibly other zones that, contrasting the current approach, do not move around the landscape. Governor Kitzhaber recently promoted this type of plan.

Old growth slated for clearcutting in the Clatsop state forest (photo by Trygve Steen)

Old growth slated for clearcutting in the Clatsop state forest (photo by Trygve Steen)

A land allocation approach has the potential to succeed in improving conservation. Clearly, a large portion of the landscape would need to fall into the conservation zone in order for wildlife habitat and clean water to be adequately protected. 50% of the forest is a conservative estimate. What’s even more important though, is how that allocation is managed and where it is. Current conservation areas are too often managed to produce some timber volume–heavily thinned or even clearcut. In the new plan, conservation areas need to be managed for conservation without any expectation of producing timber. That means forests, left largely untouched, intended to grow old and complex. Not wilderness, but wild.

Another crucial factor in the success of this approach is maps. Public awareness and transparency are of the utmost importance for conservation. Protected areas should not be moved and changed at the discretion of ODF staff on a yearly basis. These areas need to be on long-term, publicly available maps. Oregonians deserve to know where these areas are, and for the sake of healthy salmon runs, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestering old trees, and clean drinking water, these areas should be in the public eye and the public conscience.

Conservation does not work at the whims of political tides and timber projections. It requires durable and robust commitments for the foreseeable future.

 

 


Albuquerque Wilderness 50 Celebration – Take-Aways

November 4, 2014
Proxy Falls Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon, USA

By Thomas Goebel, age 18
Jensen Beach, Florida, USA

I was privileged to attend the Albuquerque 50th Anniversary celebration of the signing of the Wilderness Act by President Johnson. There were two days of local area field trips or a pre-conference training at the Rio Grande Nature Center, followed by four days of panels, keynote speeches, and exhibits at the downtown Hyatt Regency Conference Center and the Albuquerque Convention Center.

I’d like to share some of the thoughts that the Celebration gave me about Wilderness, the Wilderness Act, and lands protection in general; and what they mean to the Sierra Club, as well as all conservation organizations, as we go forward into the 21st Century in a very changed political and public reality.
But first, a bit more about the Celebration.

By Rodney Lough Jr., PRO Happy Valley, Oregon, USA Rodney Lough Jr. Wilderness Collections www.rodneyloughjr.com

By Rodney Lough Jr., PRO
Happy Valley, Oregon, USA
Rodney Lough Jr. Wilderness Collections
http://www.rodneyloughjr.com

The Wilderness50 planning team was created as a corporation with 30 members, including all the key government land agencies and national conservation non-profit organizations. More than a 100 additional organizations, foundations, and businesses provided funding and resources for the celebration. For more on this, go to: http://www.wilderness50th.org/about.php. This resulted in a six day event in Albuquerque and the surrounding area featuring field trips, training, exhibitions, 84 presenter panels, 20 keynote speakers, and many social events that connected together a broad range of government employees, activists, academics, and business people in celebration of 50 years of Wilderness for the American people. It was exceedingly well planned and executed, a tribute to the many people in our country who care about our natural legacy.

By Joe LeFevre Oswego, New York, USA

By Joe LeFevre
Oswego, New York, USA

With so many exciting events all happening at the same time, no one person could be at even a small percentage of them, so every attendee likely came away with different message. Here’s what I came away with:

Downers:

Wilderness, and lands protection in general, is in trouble! Even the Wilderness we already have!! As Keynoter Chris Barns (Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center) so eloquently stated: all three support legs of the Wilderness stool are broken. Those are 1) public support, 2) government agency funding and training, and 3) non-profit focus. The latter two are a reflection of the first – a broad erosion in public support for the concept that our pristine public lands need to be protected for future generations.

Lands stewardship is being broadly neglected by the government agencies. This is a result of a lack of funding from, and in many cases, downright hostility by members of Congress to the concept of public lands protection, even to those already protected. This is resulting in an increasing number of destructive activities occurring without preventive action, and even authorization by government agencies of illegal activities on protected lands.
Climate change is threatening the health of all public lands. There is very little planning and no funding to mitigate this threat. The “management” of Wilderness Areas is a controversial issue, but climate change, as well as the century long exclusion of fire, are dramatic human “trammels” upon the naturalness of Wilderness, so we need an intelligent conversation about how we deal with these situations.

Uppers:

Young people!! I looked around and couldn’t believe my eyes – there were young people everywhere. Woo-hoo!
There were so many energetic, intelligent, and eloquent activists from all persuasions: government; non-profit; academic; and public. It gave me great hope.
Universal recognition by all sectors represented that we must do more, much more, to educate and sell the need for lands protection, especially Wilderness, to the Public. It must be our focus, otherwise we will fail in this century to keep the protected lands that we have.

So, what to do?

Educate the Public – We must educate the Public, not just on a generic need for Wilderness or lands protection, but about what it does for them at a personal level: clean water, clean air, solitude, a connection to nature, a home for their favorite animal or tree or flower, or preservation of their favorite place for hiking, hunting, fishing or camping. This education effort needs to become part of everything we do.
Connect with Young People – We need a greater focus on connecting with young people. This can happen by reaching out to the schools, but is becoming an increasing challenge with the narrowing focus on “curriculums”, such as Common Core, and falling public school funding around the country. We must be creative in tailoring our appeal to be part of the school’s curriculum needs. Also, see the next item on stewardship.
Become Stewards – Stewardship must become part of our conservation advocacy program. Sierra Club has not traditionally focused on stewardship, but we must add this to our portfolio. I heard many wonderful stories of agency/non-profit stewardship collaboration that’s making a real difference. It’s a highly effective way to connect with young and old, and get them engaged, educated, and trained. Plus, it creates publicity and legitimacy for all our conservation goals.
Lobby – Every lobbying effort with members of Congress needs to include advocacy for increasing funding for protected lands stewardship. The Wilderness Act and many other laws require the lands agencies to do this, but without funding and direction from Congress, it is not being done.
Use Economics – I was astonished to see photos of Bend Oregon’s Old Mill District on the screen in Albuquerque, but John Sterling of The Conservation Alliance and Ben Alexander from Headwaters Economics used Bend as their primo example for how protected lands can rejuvenate a community. Even where the other benefits from protected lands are rejected as “wasting our resources”, the $ still changes minds. Go to http://headwaterseconomics.org/ – the amount of locale specific information available there for free is truly amazing.
Open Minded Thinking – We need to question old attitudes about Wilderness management and future lands protection models, as well as our willingness to work with those with whom we disagree. We are facing new challenges with climate change and a burgeoning population. Our old protection models may no longer be possible in many places, but new models may gain acceptance and accomplish our protection goals. Blindly demanding no commercial activities on federal lands or total passivity in Wilderness Areas immediately eliminates us from the conversation about how these areas will be managed. We must be willing to reason together with other interests, or we place ourselves in the same box as the right wing whackos.

Alaska Range Denali Wilderness, Alaska, USA

By Tim Aiken, age 18
Stanford, California, USA
http://www.timaiken.org

A time of hope:
I came away really uplifted and energized from my six days in Albuquerque. There are many challenges before us, to even retain what we have, but there is a great opportunity to recreate the lands protection movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. Climate change will eventually demand a great rethinking of how we interact with our natural world. That will be our opportunity. We must prepare and be ready to take that opportunity.
Larry Pennington, Oregon Chapter Chair


OREGON CHAPTER SEEKS NEXT CHAPTER DIRECTOR

October 22, 2014

Sierra Club LogoIn 2008, Brian Pasko joined the Oregon Chapter as our Chapter Director. After more than a decade of employment with the Sierra Club he will be leaving the Chapter around the end of 2014.  In preparation for his departure, the Oregon Chapter is actively recruiting our next Chapter Director.

This is an opportunity to work with the best environmental activists in the state on conservation issues close to home. We’re looking for that unique combination of a green fire in the belly, strong budget and team management skills, and the ability to work with a wide variety of stakeholders to accomplish great things, including increased financial support for our programs.

If you’re ready to tackle a leadership role for an organization focused on keeping the Oregon air clear, our trees green and our wildlife protected, please click here for all the details and to apply.


Pacific Power has you hooked on coal

October 7, 2014

 

By Amy Hojnowski

Over two-thirds of the energy Pacific Power supplies to their half-a-million customers in Oregon comes from out-of-state coal.  Recently the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) issued a final order on the long-term energy mix of PacifiCorp, operating as Pacific Power in Oregon. Their final decision was clear: no more business as usual for coal-dependent Pacific Power.

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For the last year, the Commissioners have been outspoken in their skepticism that Pacific Power’s fleet-wide, multi-billion coal expenditures provide the least-cost option for Oregon customers. In their final decision, the Commissioners refused to acknowledge Pacific Power’s coal expenditures at two of the Jim Bridger units in Wyoming and one unit at the Hunter plant in Utah, which means that Pacific Power will likely face significant challenges seeking additional rate hikes to pay for their coal.

The company’s rates in Oregon have already increased 61 percent during the last seven years, accounting for the billions spent to prop up dirty coal plants in other states. PGE, for example, uses half as much coal and their rate increases have been significantly less than Pacific Power’s.

The PUC’s final order reflects their findings that Pacific Power is putting its customers at risk of large price increases by investing in its coal fleet rather than honestly considering real investments in viable alternatives like wind and solar that create jobs here in Oregon. The Commission is charged with making sure that Pacific Power and all utilities are providing their customers with the least cost, least risk energy options, and clearly coal doesn’t cut it anymore.

While other utility companies in Oregon, like PGE, are more quickly moving away from coal, Pacific Power continues to cling to its outdated coal plants. Cheaper, safer and cleaner sources of energy like wind and solar are available now but account for less than 10% of Pacific Power’s energy mix and their long-term planning shows virtually no change.

Pacific Power’s customers expect more from their utility and are often shocked to learn how much coal they buy in their monthly bill. The reality is that the coal industry is dying out and the future is in modern solutions like wind and solar. Looming overhead are further public health protections and the first national standards limiting carbon pollution from power plants—a key driver of climate disruption—making dirty coal even more expensive and a shaky investment proposition. Even new analysis from Citigroup shows that coal is priced out of the market, while solar and wind power are already competing on costs with dirty fuels.

Meanwhile, Oregon is home to a burgeoning clean energy economy. There is no reason for Pacific Power to continue to burn coal in other states to power homes here in Oregon, other than to continue business as usual. Oregon ranks 5th in the nation for total wind energy installation and there is enough solar energy installed in the state to power over 7,000 homes. Investments in local solar and wind power will keep money in Oregon and provide jobs. A new report from the American Wind Energy Association shows that the states with the most wind power see electricity prices decline, while other states see price increases. Renewable energy development in Oregon has already brought over 5,000 long term jobs and over 9 billion in investment.

The Oregon Public Utility Commission stood up for Oregonians and sent a clear signal to Pacific Power that the utility cannot keep dumping money into outdated coal plants and expect customers to pick up the bill. Now it’s time for citizens and elected officials to engage and call for a truly coal-free Oregon. Together we can stop importing dirty coal from Pacific Power and start investing in clean energy.

The Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign is launching a statewide effort to transition Oregon completely off of coal power and onto clean renewable energy. We held launch events this past month in both Bend and Portland that rolled out our organizing campaign to build a broad coalition of environment and health care organizations, business and community leaders to educate and motivate Oregonians. Our goal is to bolster the great work of the PUC and create a transition plan and become a truly coal-free state. We’ve seen a lot of successes in Oregon- from the grassroots campaigns to set a retirement date for Boardman and the victory over coal export terminals. Now is the time to take the next step and reject all coal use in our electricity mix while promoting clean energy alternatives and jobs here at home.

Amy Hojnowski, of Portland, is the Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.

 

 


Vote Yes on Measure 88

October 7, 2014

The Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club has joined dozens of other organizations in endorsing a YES position on Measure 88.

Voting yes on Measure 88 will mean that residents of Oregon, regardless of their citizenship status, will have the option to obtain a driver’s card so they can legally drive to work, take a family member to the hospital, or attend a rally. And yes, even access trails and wilderness areas accessible only by vehicle. This will make the roads safer for all of us and allow people to contribute to their own well-being and the state’s economy.

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Measure 88 is also a step toward creating a more inclusive, democratic society, something the Sierra Club is deeply committed to. It’s even stated in the National Sierra Club Board policy: 11 million immigrants in our country ultimately need a pathway to citizenship so they can participate as full members of our democracy.

As an advocacy group, we value and depend on civic engagement from all communities. Undocumented immigrants are often most affected by environmental pollution and cannot speak out without fear of deportation. All people must have a voice if we are to achieve the conservation victories that protect our natural resources and help our communities thrive.

Learn more about Measure 88 and vote YES this November!

Not yet registered to vote? There’s still time! Register here.


What’s in a Plan?

October 1, 2014

The Oregon Board of Forestry continues to explore new Forest Management Plans that will both provide financial viability to the Department of Forestry and improve conservation outcomes on the Tillamook & Clatsop state forests. On September 29th, the Board weighed two options developed by ODF. A “Land Allocation” proposal suggested putting at least 30% of the forest into a conservation zone and managing other portions of the forest for different degrees of timber production. A “Landscape Management” proposal is similar to the current forest management plan, with various types of forest structure moved around the landscape over time. The latter proposal suggests sacrificing habitat in smaller forest districts, such as the Santiam. The Board moved a motion to explore/pursue land allocation proposal, but did not move any specifics such as those in the ODF proposal.

As Ian Fergusson, Resource Director for NW Steelheaders, put it, either proposal has the potential to succeed or fail. The devil is in the details, and as of now, the details haven’t been worked out. In order to improve conservation outcomes, any plan would likely need to improve riparian buffers to provide adequate shade and wood delivery to streams, increase the amount of older forest on the landscape, reduce clearcutting on steep slopes, and decrease the forest road network, which currently is very expansive and can lead to sediment problems in streams. Both ODF proposals include expanding no-cut buffer zones on fish-bearing streams to 115 feet, reflecting current scientific literature that suggests little or no riparian management is best for stream health. 115 feet is a good start, but it is unclear that it is adequate. Non-fish bearing streams would benefit from a no-cut buffer of at least 75 feet. Current standards are much less protective.

Buster Creek in the Clatsop State Forest

Buster Creek in the Clatsop State Forest

The timber industry delivered extensive testimony asking for a zoned approach, such as the “Land Allocation” proposal. However, timber representatives asked for a significant reduction in conservation areas. Their vision would see nearly twice as much landscape clearcut as the current plan! An Association of Oregon Loggers representative urged the Board to curtail public input and not seek public approval when devising a new plan, stating that the timber industry was a more important stakeholder than the Oregonians who own these lands.

The Trust Land Counties, who receive a significant portion of revenue from state forest timber harvests, did not advocate for either proposal nor did they put forward alternative ideas. They argued against the Department pursuing a Habitat Conservation Plan, which would provide habitat and timber predictability for the long-term. The Counties’ unwillingness to meaningfully participate in the process does not bode well for a new plan being created.

Sierra Club staff and volunteers, along with our ally groups in the North Coast State Forest Coalition urged the Board to move forward keeping conservation improvements in mind. The success of either plan hinges on balance, public input, and the best science available. Dollars cannot be the only driver determining the future of these forests. These lands have been over-logged and burnt. They are just beginning to recover, and their protection is crucial to Oregon’s economy and environment.

Read the Forest Grove News-Times’ coverage of this process here.


Larry and Rhett go to DC (and survive!)

September 25, 2014

By Larry Pennington, Oregon Chapter Chair

On September 14 to 17, Rhett Lawrence (our Conservation Director) and I traveled to our nation’s capital to participate in Wilderness Week, an annual lobbying effort jointly sponsored by the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and Pew Charitable Trusts. The focus this year, of course, was celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, signed into law by President Johnson on September 3rd in 1964.

Larry Pennington at the U.S. Capitol

Larry Pennington at the U.S. Capitol

Our first day was a lobbying training conducted at the Pew offices, featuring distinguished speakers from Pew, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and several other conservation non-profits. We also heard from Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and senior staff from the U.S. Forest Service, BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the National Park Service.

The second and third days were dedicated to meeting with the Oregon Congressional delegation and their staffs to promote conservation and environmental issues in Oregon. Several other Oregon conservation organizations joined us for some of the meetings, such as the Pew Charitable Trusts, Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), Oregon Wild, KS Wild, American Rivers, the Geos Institute, and longtime wilderness advocate Andy Kerr.

We were privileged to meet with staff members for all five U.S. Representatives and both Senators, as well as with Senator Jeff Merkley himself. Rhett and I focused on the Keep Waldo Wild campaign and the Owyhee Canyonlands at all our meetings. Getting a universally positive response to our Waldo conservation campaign – though most of the Congressional delegation had never learned of it before – was most gratifying!

The most enthusiastic responses came from the staff members for Sen. Merkley, Sen. Wyden, and Rep. DeFazio. All posed some tough, probing questions and asked for more information – a good sign, we think. Our cause was helped by recent trips to Waldo Lake by two of Sen. Merkley’s staff and one of Rep. DeFazio’s staff, all of whom were instant converts to keeping Waldo wild. When Sen. Merkley said he wanted to visit Waldo as soon as he could fit it in (there’s an election soon, you know), ear-to-ear smiles broke out on our faces! Jumping on the bandwagon, other Merkley staff members also expressed a desire to tour the gem of the High Cascades.

For the Owyhee, Rhett and I worked in tandem with Brent Fenty of ONDA and Brett Swift of Pew to promote either Wilderness or National Monument designation, whichever can get done the soonest and provide adequate protection.

And as a wonderful side benefit to the trip, we were treated to making good new connections with the Sierra Club DC staff, as well as Pew and Wilderness Society staff, while renewing bonds with old friends from many organizations.

We concluded that it was a most valuable week for us, for Waldo Lake, for the Owyhee, and for our Congresspersons! We hope they learned something, too, and were persuaded to join our conservation efforts, so future generations will have the ability to explore and enjoy these precious wild places of Oregon.


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