“Owyhee Rendezvous” Recruits New Advocates for Desert Protection

July 6, 2011

By Heidi Dahlin, Oregon Chapter Conservation Chair

Nearly 40 people attended the Sierra Club's "Owyhee Rendevous" and were inspired by the beauty of eastern Oregon's Owyhee Canyonlands.

Amid the stunning backdrop of red rock volcanic formations, 40 desert enthusiasts met up last weekend for the 2011 Oregon Chapter Sierra Club Owyhee Rendezvous in Leslie Gulch, near Jordan Valley and part of the Owyhee Canyonlands. A common statement of attendees was “I’ve lived in Oregon my whole life, and I never knew something like this was in Oregon!” What they were referring to were soaring spires, enormous cathedrals and intricate honeycomb rock formations in hues of red, orange, yellow, green and purple, jutting up from the landscape along  narrow gulches, reminiscent of the more well-known rock formations of Utah and Arizona.

This spectacular landscape is part of the Owyhee Canyonlands, an area of approximately 2 million acres for which the Oregon Chapter is working to gain permanent protection. The collection of wilderness study areas and wildlands, under the management of the Bureau of Land Management, is one of the most remote areas in the United States and is important habitat for the Greater Sage Grouse, a species declining in numbers due to habitat loss, as well as pronghorn antelope, golden eagles and pygmy rabbits.

The Owyhee Rendezvous was held at the remote and beautiful Leslie Gulch in Malheur County, Oregon.

What can you do to help protect this area? 

• Sign up to be informed on high desert issues through our list-serve by e-mailing highdesert@oregon.sierraclub.org

• Visit our website (http://oregon.sierraclub.org/conserv/hidsrt/index.asp) to learn more about the Owyhee Canyonlands campaign.

• Volunteer with the High Desert Committee. Our meetings are the first Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. in the chapter office (1821 SE Ankeny St, Portland, Oregon)

• Write Senator Merkley and ask him to work to permanently protect the Owyhee Canyonlands for both its wild and scenic character and its value as critical habitat for sage grouse. It remains as some of the best and last untrammeled sagebrush steppe in the United States. Contact info: Senator Jeff Merkley, 313 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20510


High Desert Adventures 2011!

February 25, 2011

West Little Owyhee

The Oregon Chapter’s High Desert Committee has announced its schedule of trips for the 2011 season!

Please feel free to contact trip leaders with inquiries about trips. You can also learn more about wilderness opportunities in the John Day Basin at our Spring Event on March 17th at 6:30pm at the Sierra Club office in Portland.  We would also encourage you to consider attending our Owyhee Rendezvous in late June as a great opportunity to see this far flung corner of Oregon.  More information about both of these opportunities can be found below!

HDC Spring Event

When: March 17, Thursday 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Where: Oregon Chapter Office, 1821 SE Ankeny, Portland

Come explore the beauty of the John Day River Basin and Owyhee Canyonlands from the comfort of a chair! We will feature the Sutton Mountain Wilderness Study Area, as well as the surrounding Painted Hills. This event is held in conjunction with our Columbia (Portland area) Group’s ” Third Thursday” program,  and we will have a potluck as well as provide snacks and beverages. Join the High Desert Committee for food, fun and fellowship. Food and mingling starts at 6:30, presentation at 7pm.

Fort Rock/Christmas Lake Basins

When: May 13, 2011 to May 15, 2011
Where: Fort Rock/Christmas Lake Basins

We will visit the diverse volcanic geology of the landscape east of Fort Rock in Central Oregon SE of Bend. There are three wilderness study areas that are largely ancient lava flows to explore as well as places such as Devils Garden, Derrick Cave, Crack in the Ground, Hole in the Ground, Fossil Lake, the Lost Forest, and of course Fort Rock itself. This trip provides a great introduction to Oregon’s High Desert with more to do and see than time will allow. The trip will consist of a longer and shorter hikes but although the terrain is ruggedat times, the hiking is largely moderate in nature.

To register for this trip: Contact: Borden Beck, 503-706-3634, bborden@teleport.com.

Sierra Club volunteers in the wild Owyhee Canyonlands proposed National Monument in southeast Oregon.

Owyhee Rendezvous 2011

When: June 25, 2011 to June 29, 2011
Where: Owyhee Canyonlands Calling all desert enthusiasts!

We are once again hosting an Owyhee Rendezvous–a time and a place to meet together and explore, enjoy, and learn how to protect the Owyhee Canyonlands area. The focus of our current campaign, the Owyhee Canyonlands are vast and diverse. We will form a base camp at Leslie Gulch, and from there lead daily hikes. Areas to be visited may include the Honeycombs, Juniper Gulch, Timber Gulch, Three Forks, Jordan Craters and more. This is our primary focus for trips this year. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to meet up with old and new friends in a stunningly beautiful place. Formal registration materials will available by April 1st but you may get information or sign up for registration materials by contacting Harry Anderton now.

For information: contact: Harry Anderton, 503-241-7035, haredoga@gmail.com.

Steens Mountain: Fence Pull

When: July 29, 2011 to August 3, 2011
Where: Steens Mountain

Want to help add a bit more “wild” to the Steens Mountain wilderness? Join us in removing the visual blight of old fencing that’s also a danger to hikers and wildlife. This year we will backpack in to our work site. No experience necessary! We will have down time to explore the area. The work is strenuous and the climate hot, but you’ll walk away with a feeling of accomplishment!

To register, contact: Harry Anderton, 503-241-7035, haredoga@gmail.com.

Anderson Crossing – West Little Owyhee

When: August 10, 2011 to August 14, 2011
Where: Anderson Crossing – West Little Owyhee

Anderson Crossing is along the upper reaches of the West Little Owyhee River and is in one of the most remote areas in Oregon. We will be exploring both upstream and downstream in what is known as Louse Canyon. The rugged and geologically gorgeous canyon is cut by a designated Wild and Scenic River and it alternates between small stream and long deep pools, all bounded by steep cliffs. The hiking should be considered to be strenuous due to difficult terrain and plan to get your feet wet in the heat of the summer.

To register, contact: Bill Hart, 503-236-8058, whart@easystreet.net


2010 a Big Year for Oregon’s Environment

January 7, 2011

2010 was a great year for the environment in Oregon, and the Sierra Club played BIG role in a number of key victories!  Here’s a brief list of our major successes in 2010 with a look ahead to 2011!

Thousands of Sierra Club volunteers took action around the region in 2010, calling for early closure of the Boardman coal plant.

Boardman Close Down Date Secured

After a multi-year effort, we locked down major air quality improvements and an early closure of PGE’s Boardman coal fired power plant the state’s single largest source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In December, Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) approved a final rule requiring significant reductions in haze and acid rain causing pollution at the plant in the next few years and an end to coal-fired operations by the end of 2020.

However, closure could come much earlier: last summer, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act to Portland General Electric over the Boardman plant due to violations dating back to at least 1998. And a federal judge is expected to rule in 2011 on the Sierra Club’s lawsuit against PGE which exposed the long history of Clean Air Act violations. These factors, plus new hazardous air toxics regulations for coal plants coming next year, convinced the EQC to leave PGE options to affordably close the plant as soon as 2015. Boardman, which began coal fired operations in 1980, will be among the youngest U.S. coal plants closed for environmental reasons in the country. The Boardman victory is one in a string of Sierra Club victories helping to shutter dirty coal plants across the West – http://orsierraclub.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/how-the-west-is-winning-against-coal/.

A press conference outside the Sierra Club office following the demise of the Bradwood Landing LNG proposal.

Bradwood Landing LNG Terminal Stopped

After years of community organizing and court challenges by the Sierra Club and our allies, Northernstar Natural Gas, the Texas company proposing a  the Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas terminal and pipelines near Astoria declared bankruptcy. In a final blow, in November the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned Bradwood’s land use approval because of the huge impact dredging would have on traditional Columbia River fishing grounds and key salmon habitat  (http://tdn.com/news/local/article_ab7a3ae4-e864-11df-b838-001cc4c03286.html). The Sierra Club and others are still fighting the two remaining LNG proposals (one in Coos Bay, and another near Astoria) and hundreds of miles of proposed gas pipelines. But we believe its only a matter of time before these two bad ideas go the way that Bradwood Landing did last year.

Approximately 1000 people attended an environmental gubernatorial debate co-hosted by the Sierra Club in 2010.

Governor Kitzhaber Elected

The Sierra Club played an important role in helping elect John Kitzhaber as Governor, reaching out to thousands of Sierra Club members across Oregon to talk about the importance of this election for the environment. We went on the attack when Kitzhaber’s opponent, Chris Dudley, bombed on multiple environmental questions in the only televised debate in the election. Earlier in the year, we co-hosted and organized the state’s only environmentally focused debate of the Governor’s race, with participation from major candidates from both parties, attended by over 1000 people (http://orsierraclub.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/debate-2/).

Clean Energy Works and Green Job Creation

Throughout 2010, the Sierra Club played a role on the implementation Portland’s Clean Energy Works program, helping to spur the weatherization of hundreds of homes in Portland, creating at least 20 new green jobs, and promoting social equity and quality job training. The Clean Energy Works program ultimately received a $20 million federal grant to weatherize thousands of homes across Oregon beginning in 2011, and over the summer the Sierra Club teamed up with partners in labor and faith groups in a 100 home pilot project in Portland’s Cully Neighborhood, testing out the ability of community organizations to organize people to take advantage of energy efficiency programs offered by the city and utilities. By the end of the summer, and due to extensive member and neighborhood outreach,  Sierra Club members accounted  for 12% of those applying for extensive energy efficiency upgrades in the neighborhood, a significant accomplishment showing what a positive difference our members can make in helping create green jobs while using energy more efficiently and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

Sierra Club volunteers collaborated with the Forest Service, loggers, and other conservationists in 2010 on a small-diameter thinning project at Glaze Meadow near Sisters, Oregon. Though hard at times, we won important concessions to minimize potential harm to meadows, wildlife, and large fire-resistant trees. In total, we watchdogged over 400,000 acres of proposed management actions on four national forests and multiple BLM Districts across eastern Oregon in 2010, helping protect roadless areas, old growth forests stands, and key salmon habitat.

State Land Board Holds ODF Accountable

In June, the State Land Board required that a science review be conducted before implementing  rule changes pushed by the Oregon Department of Forestry to significantly increase clearcutting on state forests. The Land Board, made up of the Governor, Treasurer, and Secretary of State unanimously voted to hold off on the new logging plans until the completion of a scientific review and the presentation of its results to the Board of Forestry and the State Land Board, allowing time to make alterations to better protect fish, wildlife and water quality based on the results of the review.

Genetically Engineered Sugar Beets Ordered Destroyed

In early December, a U.S. District judge delivered a stinging blow to Monsanto and the USDA after the unlawful planting of genetically engineered beets in Oregon earlier this year. The judge ordered the immediate destruction of 256 acres of genetically engineered (GE) beets in Oregon and Arizona, citing the irreparable harm of cross-contamination of GE plants with normal ones. (http://orsierraclub.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/judge-uproots-gmo-beets-in-oregon/

Sierra Club volunteers pulling barbed wire fence near Steens Mountain - one of many actions to protect Oregon's high desert areas.

BLM Wilderness Gets Interim Protection, Oregon Wilderness Bills Almost To Finish Line

Late in 2010, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar overturned the Bush-era policy of ‘no more wilderness’ on BLM lands. The result is that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will once again have the authority to conduct wilderness inventories, identify lands with wilderness character, and give them interim protection until Congress acts. In Oregon the Sierra Club has been working to protect roughly 2 million acres of BLM wildlands in the Owyhee Canyonlands in the southeast part of the state, and 60,000 acres of wild old growth forest along the Rogue River managed by the BLM. In a small setback, the US Senate failed to pass three Oregon wildlands bills that had Sierra Club support, including protecting 21 miles of the Molalla River near Portland as Wild and Scenic, adding 4,000 acres to the Oregon Caves National Monument, and protecting nearly 30,000 acres of coastal forest outside Eugene as the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness. However, these bills did pass the House and we will continue to work build on this success to pass these and other Oregon wildlands bills in 2011 and beyond.

Offshore Drilling Blocked by Oregon Legislature, LNG Pipeline Bill Blocked

It seems so long ago, but in February 2010 the Oregon Legislature held a month long session which featured a couple of key environmental victories. Even before the Gulf oil disaster, the Oregon legislature passed a Sierra Club supported bill to extend the ban on drilling for oil and gas off of Oregon’s coastline for another ten years. Additionally, the Sierra Club helped block an attempt to fast-track the state permitting process for LNG companies seeking permission to fill and remove wetlands and cross streams with pipelines on private lands. We unfortunately expect the LNG pipeline fast-track bill to come back again during the 2011 legislature, and we hope we can stop it once and for all.

Want to help us succeed in 2011?
Please consider making a donation to the Oregon Chapter.
Click here to make your donation today!  

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How can you Give Thanks today?

November 25, 2010

Sierra Club volunteers exploring the Owyhee Canyonlands in Eastern Oregon.

In today’s Oregonian (Wednesday. November 24), there is an opinion editorial by Bruce Babbitt (former Secretary of the Interior during the Clinton administration) about protecting the Owyhee Canyonlands in the high desert of far Southeast Oregon.  Please take a minute today to write a letter to the editor expressing your support for protecting the Owyhee Canyonlands!

The Owyhee Canyonlands is perhaps the largest unroaded landscape in the lower 48, very remote and wild. The eco-region needing permanent protection covers over 2 million acres in Oregon. Wilderness study areas were identified by the federal Bureau of Land Management well over 20 years ago and still await congressional action. It is a spectacular landscape and one of Oregon’s most special places.

You are likely reading this because you care about protecting Oregon’s wild lands. Please  take a moment to write a letter to the editor of the Oregonian in response to Secretary Babbitt’s opinion editorial, supporting protecting the Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands. The Oregonian limits letters to the editor to no more than 150 words. Your letter could reflect personal experience, the desire for Oregon’s wild places to stay wild, concern over global warming and why protecting large resilient roadless wildlands is important, or perhaps just your hope for a place where herds of antelope and other wildlife can roam. Your letter could advocate for a legislative route to wilderness designation, an administrative designation as a National Monument, or both! The trick is that for your LTE to be timely, so the sooner the better.

Click here to email a letter to the editor of the Oregonian!

Click here for the Oregonian’s ‘letters to the editor’ policy – be sure to include your full name, address, and daytime phone number for verification at the end of your letter, and keep the length to within 150 words.

You can also post comments at the end of Secretary Babbitt’s op-ed, but be sure to send in a letter to the editor first!

Please give thanks for Oregon’s wildlands TODAY,

Borden Beck
Chair, High Desert Committee
Oregon Chapter Sierra Club


Take Action to Protect Oregon’s Sage Grouse Habitat

November 5, 2010

The greater sage grouse is in decline, largely due to the the loss of intact and uninterrupted sagebrush habitat across the West. The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently determined that the greater sage grouse is warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act, but has been precluded from listing due to the backlog of other endangered species also needing attention.

In this midst of this regulatory ‘Catch 22′ for the sage grouse, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is  developing a plan intended to guide management decisions in a way that will better protect the species. Much of ODFW’s proposed sage grouse conservation plan addresses the need to maintain existing habitat and rehabilitate degraded habitat. The guidelines proposed by the plan will potentially affect siting of energy projects and transmission lines, levels of cattle grazing allowed in sagebrush habitat, and other proposed development across eastern Oregon’s high deserts.

Click here to read more about the plan and offer your comments. ODFW is accepting public comment on the plan through Nov. 15.

You can read the comments the Sierra Club submitted jointly with several other conservation groups by clicking here: ODFW Sage Grouse Plan Comments – Final Sept 14 2010


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