Some good, some not-so-good in the 2014 session of the Oregon Legislature

March 12, 2014

state capitolWe can all breathe a sigh of relief now, as the 2014 “short session” of the Oregon Legislature wrapped up on Friday, March 7.  The frantic pace of the short session – with its tight deadlines and quick turnaround times – was a real eye-opener for us and made it even harder than usual to keep up with everything that was happening.  As an example, on one day in the first week of the session, we had four bills up for a hearing in three different committees at the same time!

At any rate, it’s safe to say the outcome of the session was a mixed bag, without a significant amount of either progress or setbacks.  Here’s a quick summary of what happened to some of the bills we were tracking:

  • We had a minor loss on Senate Bill 1510, which would have created a process for a more coordinated and comprehensive environmental review of large projects in Oregon by essentially implementing a state-level version of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  While the bill did not make it out of committee, there is still likely to be an interim workgroup to work on the issue and report back to the 2015 Oregon Legislature.
  • One nice victory was Senate Bill 1516, which establishes a planning process for turning an old railroad corridor between Banks and Tillamook into a “Salmonberry Trail.”  Since we are active members of the North Coast State Forest Coalition, we are enthusiastic about such a trail and strongly supported SB 1516.  It passed the Legislature and now awaits the Governor’s signature.
  • In sad news, Senate Bill 1569 failed to move.  This bill would have begun the process of phasing out certain toxic chemicals from children’s toys sold in Oregon.  Unfortunately the bill was first scaled back to just require the creation of a list of chemicals of concern and require manufacturers to notify Oregon public health officials when their children’s products contain these chemicals.  Then, even that watered-down bill failed to make it out of the Ways and Means Committee, which was a major disappointment.  It’s hard to believe that a bill designed to keep toxic chemicals out of our kids’ toys cannot pass in Oregon, but these proposals will be back.
  • We had another minor victory in the stalling of Senate Joint Memorial 201, which was merely a statement from the Legislature to the U.S. Congress and to the Administration that reforms are necessary on Oregon’s “O&C Lands”.  While such a measure is essentially meaningless, we believed the language of the memorial was heavily slanted toward timber production on our backyard forests and neglected the important functions the O&C Lands provide for recreation, tourism, and clean water.  And fundamentally, decisions about O&C Lands are simply outside the purview of the Oregon Legislature.  We opposed SJM 201 in its original committee hearing and it was sent to the Senate Rules Committee, where it remained at adjournment.
  • Another important win was the passage of House Bill 4126 – a critical bill to help defend Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).  A very destructive ballot measure had been proposed for 2014 ballot to incorporate large-scale hydroelectric power into the RPS, which would have rendered the RPS essentially meaningless and dramatically undercut the development of real renewable power in the state.  HB 4126 was the result of a settlement between many parties to the debate over the hydro ballot measure and its passage removes the specter of that ballot measure.  The settlement was not perfect, but we supported it as a way to make the ballot measure go away.  It passed both houses essentially unanimously and is now with the Governor.
  • House Bill 4042 extended net metering to wave energy in Oregon.  While wave energy technology is still in its infancy in Oregon, we believe that it could offer another viable source of renewable energy for our state.  Since net metering is a well-established mechanism to help facilitate the distributed generation of power, we supported HB 4042, which passed both houses without objection and was signed by the Governor on March 6.
  • We were disappointed in the Legislature’s failure to move House Bill 4100.  That bill would have required labels for products containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients and would have created a legislative referral to allow Oregon citizens to sign off on that proposition in the November 2014 election.  We have concerns about the potential impacts of GE foods on our environment and on public health, but also fundamentally believe that this is a right-to-know issue that will allow consumers to make informed choices about the products they purchase.  The bill was still sitting in the House Rules Committee at adjournment, but there will very likely be a similar initiative measure on the ballot in November 2014 anyway.
  • Finally, we were pleased to see the demise of House Bill 4113 – the bill to move forward on the Oregon-only funding approach for the Columbia River Crossing (CRC).  While we did have some concerns about potential environmental impacts of the current version of the CRC, we also opposed HB 4113 because we believe the project is simply fiscally irresponsible as it is currently proposed. Notwithstanding the tremendous amount of political momentum behind the bill, the opposition was even greater and the legislation never really got moving.

So all in all, things could have been a lot better in the 2014 session, and they certainly could have been worse.  Now, with this session barely in our rearview mirror, we will begin the process of determining our priorities for the 2015 full-length session!  It’ll be an exciting year, so stay tuned.


2014 Legislative Update

February 15, 2014
Oregon capitol

Nope, the flowers aren’t blooming yet. But we’re already dreaming of spring and the end of the 2014 legislative session!

The 2014 “short session” of the Oregon Legislative Session is two weeks in, and Sierra Club staff and volunteers are closely tracking and testifying on numerous bills. The frantic pace of the short session – with its tight deadlines and quick turnaround times – makes it even harder than usual to keep up with everything that’s happening, but we’re doing our best.

Thursday, February 13, was the deadline for most bills to have made it out of their committees of origin. Sadly, some bills we were supporting have fallen by the wayside, but on the bright side, many really terrible bills also did! Here are some of the bills we’ve been working on:

  • Senate Bill 1510 would have created a process for a more coordinated and comprehensive environmental review of large projects in Oregon by essentially implementing a state-level version of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  While the bill did not make it out of committee, there is still likely to be an interim workgroup to work on the issue and report back to the 2015 Oregon Legislature.
  • Senate Bill 1516 would establish a planning process for turning an old railroad corridor between Banks and Tillamook into a “Salmonberry Trail.” Since we are active members of the North Coast State Forest Coalition, we are enthusiastic about such a trail and strongly support SB 1516.  It has passed out of the Senate Rural Communities Committee and is now being evaluated in the Ways and Means Committee.
  • Senate Bill 1569 would have begun the process of phasing out certain toxic chemicals from children’s toys sold in Oregon. Unfortunately the bill has now been scaled back to just require the creation of a list of chemicals of concern and require manufacturers to notify Oregon public health officials when their children’s products contain these chemicals. While we would have preferred a stronger bill, we believe this bill is a good start and are pleased that it has passed out of the Senate Health Care Committee and gone to Ways and Means.
  • Senate Joint Memorial 201 is merely a statement from the Legislature to the U.S. Congress and to the Administration that reforms are necessary on Oregon’s “O&C Lands”.  While such a measure is essentially meaningless, we believe the language of the memorial is heavily slanted toward timber production on our backyard forests and neglects the important functions the O&C Lands provide for recreation, tourism, and clean water. And fundamentally, decisions about O&C Lands are simply outside the purview of the Oregon Legislature. We opposed SJM 201 in its original committee and it was sent to the Senate Rules Committee just before the bill deadline. We will continue to closely track its progress.
  • House Bill 4126 is an important bill to help defend Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). A very destructive ballot measure had been proposed for 2014 ballot to incorporate large-scale hydroelectric power into the RPS, which would have been rendered the RPS essentially meaningless and dramatically undercut the development of real renewable power in the state. HB 4126 was the result of a settlement between many parties to the debate over the hydro ballot measure and when it passes, it will remove the specter of that ballot measure. The settlement is not perfect, but we are supporting it as a way to make the ballot measure go away. HB 4126 has passed the House unanimously and is now headed to the Senate.
  • House Bill 4042 would extend net metering to wave energy in Oregon. While wave energy technology is still in its infancy in Oregon, we believe that if could offer another viable source of renewable energy for our state. Since net metering is a well-established mechanism to help facilitate the distributed generation of power, we support HB 4042, which has passed the House and gone to the Senate.
  • House Bill 4100 would require labels for products containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients and would create a legislative referral to allow Oregon citizens to sign off on that proposition in the November 2014 election. We have concerns about the potential impacts of GE foods on our environment and on public health, but this is also fundamentally a right-to-know bill that will allow consumers to make informed choices about the products they purchase. It’s still sitting in the House Rules Committee awaiting further action (Rules is one of the handful of committees that weren’t bound by the February 13 deadline).
  • House Bill 4113 is the bill to move forward on the Oregon-only funding approach for the Columbia River Crossing (CRC). And while we do have some concerns about potential environmental impacts of the current version of the CRC, we are also opposing HB 4113 because we believe the project is simply fiscally irresponsible as it is currently proposed. However, there’s a tremendous amount of political momentum behind the bill (and no shortage of vehement opposition!), and it has passed out of its original committee and is headed to Ways and Means.

Things are continuing to move at a furious pace in the Capitol. We’ll try to stay on top of it all and make sure Oregon’s environment doesn’t bear the brunt of the frenetic doings of the short session. Stay tuned!


Oregon Legislature Protects Waldo Lake!

May 13, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

Contact: Brian Pasko
(503) 704-2188
brian.pasko@sierraclub.org

Oregon Legislature Protects Waldo Lake
Passes Law Banning Motorboats and Sea Planes
on one of the purest lakes in the World

Waldo Lake

Early morning on Waldo Lake in central Oregon.

(SALEM, OR) —Voting  37  to 20 during a late morning session on Monday, the Oregon House of Representatives passed SB 602-A, banning the use of motorboats and seaplanes on Waldo Lake in central Oregon. This action follows last month’s 18-11 passage of the bill by the Oregon Senate. The legislation was introduced by Senator Floyd Prozanski and Representative Paul Holvey, and will now be sent to Governor Kitzhaber, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

Located near Oakridge, Waldo Lake is Oregon’s second deepest lake and rivals Crater Lake and Russia’s Lake Baikal as one of the three purest lakes in the world. The lake is so clear that boaters on its surface can look down nearly 150 feet and discern the lake’s bottom (giving one the impression of floating in outer space).

“Waldo Lake is a unique Oregon treasure,” said Brian Pasko, Director of the Sierra Club’s Oregon Chapter.  “Today’s action by the Oregon legislature will protect Waldo Lake’s unique ecology and ensure that it is a place for quiet recreation and solitude to be enjoyed by Oregonians for generations to come.”

Passage of SB 602-A reaffirms a 2012 decision of the Oregon Marine Board prohibiting the use of motorized watercraft on Waldo Lake except for boats using electric motors and traveling under 10mph. The decision was made following a lengthy public comment period that engaged over 4000 Oregon citizens in the decision making process, the vast majority of which supported the motorized ban.

Following the Marine Board’s decision, the Oregon Aviation Board issued a temporary rule last year allowing sea plane landings on Waldo Lake. The Aviation Board’s decision was made contrary to the Marine Board’s determination, even though there are many large lakes near Waldo Lake that allow for safe sea plane landings and sea plane recreational opportunities. Passage of SB 602-A resolves the conflicting decisions of these two state agencies.

“Sea planes and motorized boats present a number of environmental risks to Waldo Lake, including an increased potential for the spread of invasive species and pollution of the lake through potential fuel spills, ” said Pasko. “However, Waldo Lake is also highly valued by the public as a place for quiet recreation. SB 602-A will protect the public’s expectations and support for the current management approach at Waldo Lake.”

According to Forest Service surveys, over 75% of visitors agreed that motorized boating negatively impacts their recreational experience at Waldo Lake. Almost 70% of respondents favored only allowing non-motorized boats or electric motors on Waldo Lake, and 86% favored controlling the level of noise from motorized recreation.

“This is a victory for the thousands of Oregon’s who have attended countless meetings, endured dozens of public hearings, and stood up for keeping Waldo Lake clean and quiet every step of the way,” added Sean Stevens, executive director of Oregon Wild. “The Oregon Legislature deserves great praise today for finalizing a three-decade long process to protect this special place.”

The full text of SB 602-A can be found at: http://www.leg.state.or.us/13reg/measpdf/sb0600.dir/sb0602.a.pdf

# # #


2013 Legislative Session – Bill Tracker

April 1, 2013
The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

The 2013 Oregon Legislative Session is in full swing, and Sierra Club staff are closely tracking proposed bills and meeting with legislators in Salem to advocate for preservation of Oregon’s pristine wilderness, wildlife protection, and clean, renewable energy.

The following is a list of some of the environment and energy related bills that have been introduced in the 2013 Oregon Legislative Session, along with the Sierra Club’s position on those bills.

Click here for more information about these bills and their current status.

Bill Number Description Position
SB 357 Mandates forests to be cut at 90% of annual production levels. Oppose
HB 2893 Require utilities to pay for unused distributed solar energy generated by homes and businesses. Support
SB 242 Revises Energy Performance Standards to further discourage use of coal. Support
SB 602 Adds Waldo Lake to list of non-motorized lakes in Oregon. Support
HB 2800 Interstate 5 bridge replacement program. Oppose
SB 401 Expands State Scenic Waterways program to discourage suction dredge mining on Oregon rivers. Support
HB 2624 Allows conditional exemption of counties from prohibitions against cougar hunting with dogs. Oppose
HB 3086 Allows private entities to take actions affecting sage grouse habitat with offsite mitigation measures. Oppose
HB 2106, HB 2105 Authorizes Energy Facility Siting Council studies. Support
HB 2939 Requires comparative energy usage disclosure program. Support
HB 2791/SB 488 Extends Oregon’s standards for reducing amount of carbon in transportation fuels. Support
SB 77 Limits right to appeal land use decisions. Oppose
SJR 22 Proposes amendment to Oregon Constitution to establish procedure for requiring legislative review of administrative rules. Oppose
SB 251 Expedites approval process for development plans. Oppose
SJM 6 Local management of O&C Lands. Oppose
HB 2027 Requires agency assistance regarding nonlethal options to reduce conflict between humans and wildlife. Support
HB 2319 Prevents spreading of genetically engineered material to nearby property used for farming practices. Support
HB 2427 Prohibits raising canola within Willamette Valley. Support
SB 249 Clarifies use of certain moneys in Clean Diesel Engine Fund. Support
HB 2793 Requires energy performance scores for residential buildings. Support
HB 2497 Imposes carbon tax. Support
SB 537 Convenes work group to implement carbon tax. Support
HB 3162 Toxics disclosure for children’s products. Support
HB 2032 Ppayments for off-site compensatory mitigation. Support
HB 2202 Prohibits conditional approval of mining permits for mining of some exclusive farm use-zoned lands. Support
HB 2249 Establishes Willamette River Basin Bonneville Power
Administration Stewardship Fund.
Support
HB 2253 PSU to issue population studies to guide land use decisions. Support
HB 2254 Urban growth boundary depends on population growth in small cities. Support
HB 2256 Requires local government that expands urban growth boundary to cause renegotiation, as necessary, of urban service agreements. Support
HB 2258 Authorizes and implements water banking. Support
HB 2259 Increases certain fees charged by Water Resources Department. Support
HB 2284 Requires Oregon Business Development Department to establish and administer Oregon Industrial Site Readiness Program. Support
HB 2291 Authorizes study of rural renewable energy development zones. Support
HB 2472 Tax credit for renewable energy resource equipment. Support
HB 2694 Requires study on wave energy. Support
SB 354 Authorizes issuance of bonds for development of transmission capacity for wave energy. Support
HB 2310 Authorizes multimodal transportation funds. Support
HB 2324 Voluntary contributions for livestock safety and wildlife protection programs. Support
HB 2396 Adds large woody debris to definition of ‘material’ for
purposes of removal-fill provisions.
Support
HB 2516 Allows moneys in Watershed Conservation Funds to be used for educating
students about native fish or wildlife habitats, watersheds or ecosystems.
Support
HB 2658 Tax credits for creating jobs for removal and remedial actions. Support
HB 2659 Authorizes brownfields study. Support
HB 2715 Authorizes counties to establish control areas for commodities containing genetically engineered material. Support
HB 2726 Requires agency assistance regarding nonlethal options to reduce conflict between humans and wildlife. Support
HB 5048 Modifies OWEB budget. Support
SB 117 Approves beverage container redemption centers. Support
SB 196 Allows partnership between State Parks and Recreation Department and nonprofit organizations. Support
SB 217 Imposes annual management fee on water rights. Support
SB 247 Creates Alternative Mode Transportation Fund. Support
SB 476 Requires agencies to prepare environmental impact statements
before approving applications.
Support
HB 3364 Amends list of state agencies and public universities required
to adopt integrated pest management practices.
Support
HB 2420 Requires identification of source of communication in support
of or in opposition to candidate or measure.
Support
HB 2725 Off-road permits for ATV’s issued in form of identification plate rather than decal. Support
SB 331 Increases percentage of moneys distributed for maintenance of
county parks.
Support
HB 2393 Allows slaughtering, processing and selling poultry on land zoned for exclusive farm use. Support
HB 2285 Requires Oregon Business Development Department to establish
and administer Oregon Industrial Site Readiness Program.
Oppose
SB 474 Lists raccoon as potentially habituated wildlife. Support
HB 2435 Biodiesel containing percentage of used cooking oil is excempt from fuel tax. Support
HB 2736 Exempts farmer from liability for inadvertently having or using genetically engineered seeds or plants. Support
HB 2820 Requires study of solar siting issues. Support
SB 116 Creates task force to study shipping/transport of aquatic invasive species. Support
SB 199 Expands means for acquisition of existing water rights for conversion to in-stream water right. Support
SB 462 Restricts location of compost facilities. Oppose
HB 3098 Authorizes owners of Young Life Washington Family Ranch to
develop expansion area, exempted from state land use rules.
Oppose
SB 336 Alters standing requirements for cases involving land use regulations. Oppose
SB 5511 Allocates money for Columbia River Gorge Commission budget. Support
SB 844 Establishes voluntary greenhouse gas emission reduction program. Support
SB 845 Exempts some land use decisions from appeal. Oppose
SB 838 Prohibits certain mining operations using motorized equipment. Support
SJM 10 Urges Congress to transfer management of O&C Lands to local government. Oppose
HB 3476 Prohibits importation of genetically engineered fish into Oregon. Support
HB 3469 Establishes fund for protection of wild bird species. Support
HB 3452 Describes circumstances in which gray wolves may be taken. Oppose
HB 3492 Reduces use of toxic substances and generation of hazardous waste. Support
HJR 16 Proposes Constitutional right to hunt, fish, and trap wildlife in Oregon. Oppose

The Chapter’s work in the 2013 Oregon Legislature

March 20, 2013
The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

The 2013 Oregon Legislative Session is in full swing, and Sierra Club staff are closely tracking proposed bills and meeting with legislators in Salem to advocate for preservation of Oregon’s pristine wilderness, wildlife protection, and clean, renewable energy. Here is a list of just a few of the bills we are working on:

  • Waldo Lake:  Senate Bill 602 would ban the use of motorized floatplanes on Waldo Lake. Waldo Lake is one of Oregon’s largest natural lakes and is a destination for paddlers, hikers, and cyclists. Motorized floatplanes disrupt the peaceful serenity recreational users seek, and also pose safety concerns. Senate Bill 602 has earned a substantial amount of public support. At a public hearing on March 13, paddlers, conservationists, and native Oregonians spoke to the Senate Committee on Energy and the Environment about their appreciation for Waldo Lake and the need to keep the lake free of motorized floatplanes and boats. The bill passed out of committee on March 18 and now heads to the Senate Floor. We will continue to monitor and advocate for Senate Bill 602, and we urge you to contact your legislators and express your hope for a non-motorized Waldo Lake.
  • Solar Resource Value:  House Bill 2893 would require that utilities pay for unused distributed solar energy from homes and businesses. This would replace the current pilot program in Oregon, and would encourage the expansion of solar energy, which will help Oregonians move away from reliance on fossil fuels and switch to clean energy replacements.
  • Energy Performance Standards:  Senate Bill 242 would amend the Energy Performance Standards adopted in 2009, which prevent Oregon utilities from entering into contracts to provide coal-generated electricity to Oregonians. The proposed bill would require that utilities complete a formal cost-benefit analysis before upgrading any coal-fired power plants. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign has worked hard to move Oregon past its dependence on fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy. Amending the Energy Performance Standards would help to ensure that Oregon utilities look to renewable sources of energy, rather than coal.
  • Clean Fuels Program:  Senate Bill 488 would extend Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program, which set forth standards for reducing the amount of carbon in transportation fuels. Washington and California have similar standards. Oregon’s Clean Fuels standards are set to sunset in 2014. Senate Bill 488 would extend the program, ensuring a significantly lower amount of greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. We are working with a coalition of Oregon environmental organizations to extend the Clean Fuels Program.
  • Defending Renewable Portfolio Standards:  This legislative session has seen many attacks on Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standards, which require that large utilities source 25 percent of their energy from clean, renewable sources by 2025. House Bill 2108, House Bill 2713, and House Bill 2274 would weaken the Renewable Portfolio Standards by allowing non-renewable energy sources to qualify under the program’s standards. We are working hard to ensure that these attacks are not successful.

We are also tracking many other bills. One that we are closely watching House Bill 2106, which would set up new standards for siting any new development in sage grouse habitat in central and eastern Oregon. And as with every legislative session, we are seeing renewed attacks on wolves, cougars, and other wildlife, so we are tracking those bills closely, and working with legislators and state agencies to protect wildlife. There’s no shortage of legislative activity to keep us busy in Salem, so stay tuned for more developments!


Sierra Club Declares Oregon 2012 Session a Success for Forests and Wildlife

March 6, 2012

SALEM, Oregon – As the 2012 Oregon legislative session wound to a close on March 5, the Sierra Club declared the session a major success for Oregon’s forests and wildlife.

Significant legislation actively opposed by the Sierra Club that would have mandated unsustainably high logging levels on state forest lands, authorized lethal control of endangered wolves, and overturned a voter approved ban on hunting mountains lions with dogs all died during the short session.

Republican leaders in the evenly divided House of Representatives had made mandating higher logging levels across roughly 800,000 acres of state forestlands a top priority. The bill, HB 4098, was part of what has become a perennial effort by a handful of legislators to mandate high logging levels on state lands. But the bill was met with stiff opposition from Governor Kitzhaber and a coalition of conservation and fishing groups including the Sierra Club. While the bill passed one House committee, it died in another after a strong push by the Sierra Club and our allies.

“Oregonians want to see greater protection for old growth forests, fish, wildlife, clean water and recreational opportunities on state lands like the Tillamook, Clatsop and Elliott State Forests,” said Ivan Maluski, Conservation Director of the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club. “The annual effort at the legislature to ramp up clearcutting to unsustainable levels makes no sense, does nothing to help our economy when raw log exports are at an all time high, and ignores the tremendous economic value of recreation, clean water and salmon fisheries on public lands in the state.”

Another bill, HB 4158, would have cleared the way for killing wolves in Oregon currently protected under the state Endangered Species Act. Brought by the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association in what has become an annual attempt to make it easier to shoot wolves, this bill would have overturned a recent court ruling barring the elimination of half of Oregon’s Imnaha wolf pack, and cleared the way for greater lethal control of Oregon’s fragile, recovering wolf population, which numbers fewer than 30 animals. The bill passed the House with significant opposition, but fell flat in the Senate with thousands of Oregonians weighing in in opposition and a strong lobbying effort by the Sierra Club and other wildlife protection groups.

“With so much important business to take care of this month, it was profoundly disappointing that the legislature spent significant time debating whether to undermine protections for Oregon’s endangered wolves,” said Maluski. “Despite the objections of anti-wolf interests, the presence of wolves in Oregon brings both ecological and economic benefits to the state, and wolf recovery has become one of Oregon’s greatest conservation success stories and something we should all be proud of.”

Another piece of legislation, HB 4119, would have allowed recreational hunting of cougars with dogs on a county by county level, a rollback of Measure 18, which outlawed the practice in 1994. The state retains numerous tools to address cougars when they threaten livestock, pets or people, including the use of dogs by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife agents in limited situations. Despite this, some groups have been pushing to overturn the ban on recreational hound hunting since voters outlawed the unsportsmanlike practice nearly two decades ago. The bill passed a House committee but died in another, with the Sierra Club and other organizations that helped create the ban making a compelling case against rolling back the voter approved wildlife protection measure.

In a key conservation advancement, the Legislature also voted to create three new Marine Reserves in SB 1510. The Sierra Club has long supported an Oregon system of marine reserves, and this was a top priority of Governor Kitzhaber’s. The Legislature moved to act this year under threat of a potential citizen ballot initiative or executive order from the Governor designating larger numbers or marine reserves, which would be off-limits to fishing to help dwindling fish stocks recover and protect sensitive near-shore ocean habitats.

Despite a number of major threats this session, when the dust had settled, the 2012 Oregon Legislature was clearly a success for Oregon’s environment.


Legislative Update – Wolves, Cougars and Forests edition – February 2012

February 7, 2012

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

The Oregon Legislature is meeting for just one month this year, and is expected to be wrapped up with its work by early March. With significant budget challenges and very little time, it is disappointing to see that a number of legislators have chosen to focus their attention on controversial proposals that weaken protections for Oregon’s environment.

The legislature has taken up bills to reduce protections for endangered wolves and elusive mountain lions, mandate high logging levels on state forests, and calling for increased clearcutting on federal lands.

Here’s a sampling of some of the worst bills the Oregon Legislature is spending its short February session debating. As of March 1, the Sierra Club had succeeded in blocking three of the four following bills, with only the non-binding SJM 201 passing.

HB 4158 – Killing Endangered Wolves to Protect Livestock

HB 4158 was introduced at the request of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and is specifically intended to overturn an environmental lawsuit over the state’s current approach of killing wolves believed to be involved in attacks on livestock. In the fall of 2011, a judge blocked a state kill order targeting two wolves in NE Oregon’s Imnaha pack, including the pack’s ‘alpha’ male, which would result in functional elimination of the first wolf pack to begin breeding in Oregon in more than six decades. One of the Imnaha pack’s offspring (OR-7, also known as ‘Journey’) has captured international attention in its 1000 mile dispersal into western Oregon and northern California. While Oregon’s Wolf Management Plan allows the state to kill wolves involved in ‘chronic’ livestock depredation, many have argued that the state and ranchers are not taking significant enough non-lethal measures to prevent wolf/livestock conflicts before resorting to lethal control of Oregon’s endangered wolf population. There are currently fewer than 30 wolves in Oregon. 

HB 4098 – Maximizing State Forest Clearcutting

HB 4098 would drastically change management on more than 500,000 acres of the Tillamook, Clatsop and Santiam State Forests to make timber production the dominant use. This would have significant negative impacts to water quality, recreation, and salmon recovery and mark a significant rollback of current state forest management plans which require a more balanced approach between logging and other uses of state lands. The bill specifically mandates that annual logging levels on state forest lands be ’95 percent of the annual amount of harvestable timber expected to be grown on state forest lands.’ It would run directly counter to an initiative announced by Governor Kitzhaber in November 2011 to create long-term protected areas on state lands designed to prevent logging on high conservation value lands in state forests. This bill, in contrast, would essentially maximize logging and roadbuilding on publicly owned state forest lands at the expense of fish, wildlife, recreation, clean water and carbon sequestration beginning in January, 2013.

HB 4119 – Hound Hunting of Cougars

HB 4119 creates a ‘pilot program’ to allow hunters using one or more dogs to pursue cougars in order ‘to reduce cougar conflicts and to assess cougar populations.’ This unsportsmanlike practice has been banned in Oregon since 1994, and nearly every legislative session since proponents of hound hunting have tried to weaken the ban. This bill allows counties to request inclusion in the pilot project, which could effectively bring back hound hunting across much of the state. This bill, and the others before it, are based on the false assumption that Oregon has a cougar over-population problem and that bringing back hound hunting is the only tool to protect the public. However, there are currently more cougars killed each year now by hunters than there were before the hound hunting ban was instituted in 1994, and the state has numerous tools at its disposal to target the occasional problem cougar that wanders to close to human communities, including the use of dogs by state agents. This bill is an effort to make hound hunting a recreational practice aimed at reducing overall cougar numbers, rather than a judiciously used management tool at the disposal of state agents to address specific problem animals.

SJM 201 – Local Control Over BLM Forests to Increase Logging

Senate Joint Memorial 201 calls on the US Congress and President to hand over roughly 2.2 million acres of western Oregon Bureau of Land Management forestland to western Oregon counties so that they can exercise management authority. While little more than a letter to the President and Congress, SJM 201 contains a number of far-fetched claims, including that strategies to protect forests on BLM lands have led to increased greenhouse gas emissions from these forests (the opposite is true) and that that local control of these lands by counties and private interests will lead to balanced management of these lands to benefit the public interest. Local control would in fact likely be an environmental disaster, with a return to large-scale clearcutting that has put many runs of coastal salmon on the list of threatened and endangered species. Western Oregon BLM lands contain roughly 1 million acres of old growth forest unlikely to be protected should these lands fall into control of Oregon counties and timber companies, whose goal would be to manage them for revenue production.


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