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.


SIERRA CLUB ENDORSES BONAMICI

November 30, 2011

Conservation Group Praises Work to Protect Oregon’s Environment

[Portland]: The Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club today announced its endorsement of Suzanne Bonamici (D) in the January 31, 2012 special election in Oregon’s First Congressional District.

“We are very pleased to announce today that the Sierra Club officially endorses Suzanne Bonamici for Congress,” said Christine Lewis, the Oregon Chapter Political Chair. “She has a strong track record on environmental issues, and we are confident that she will continue work to protect Oregon’s environment and natural resources in Congress, for our families and for our future.”

Suzanne Bonamici’s record as a State Representative and State Senator is one of distinction amongst environmental champions. A stalwart supporter of renewable energy, alternative transportation, healthy communities, and sustainable planning, she made her mark as chief sponsor of 2009’s SB 637, working with a broad group of stakeholders for over a year to pass legislation requiring school districts to adopt Integrated Pest Management, protecting school children from toxic pesticide exposure and improving air and water quality on school grounds.

“We are deeply grateful to Suzanne for her work protecting children in Oregon schools from dangerous toxins”, said Borden Beck, chair of the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club and a middle school teacher.”She is a true environmental champion who will fight to protect Oregon’s clean air, clean water and special places.”

The Sierra Club also noted Bonamici’s record on opposing a provision in legislation in 2011 to expedite permitting of liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipelines. Two separate LNG terminals and hundreds of miles of pipeline have been proposed for the first Congressional District in recent years, posing a major threat to small farms, orchards, forests, and dozens of rivers and streams along the way. New plans to export LNG could ultimately harm Oregon families and businesses by raising energy costs. “Suzanne has taken bold stands in support of small farmers, small woodlot owners, and Oregon’s rivers and streams, working hard to stop efforts to expedite harmful LNG export pipelines,” said Lewis.

The Sierra Club also noted that Rob Cornilles failed to respond to the request from the Sierra Club to answer questions about his stances on several key environmental issues important to First Congressional District voters. The Sierra Club engaged in an endorsement process during the special primary and multiple candidates participated. “The conclusion we drew is that Rob Cornilles simply does not see the importance of protecting Oregon’s environment, and has no plan to create green jobs, grow sustainable economic development, or stand up to his own party’s constant attacks on clean air and clean water,” said Lewis.

Along with the endorsement, the Sierra Club will lend volunteer strength to the Bonamici campaign, drawing on thousands of members who reside in the district.

“We pledge to do all we can to help ensure Suzanne Bonamici is elected to Congress,” added Beck. ” Sierra Club volunteers will contact voters on her behalf, knock on doors, and speak to the public about her exemplary environmental record. We look forward to a victory party for the environment on election night and to many more years of Suzanne fighting for the environment as a member of Congress.”

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State Legislative Update – End of Session Edition

June 16, 2011

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

The 2011 Oregon Legislature is entering its final days. Scheduled to wrap up work by June 30, some are predicting the session will end as early as the week of June 20. Many major budget bills are done and on the way to the Governor’s desk. The Sierra Club will be scoring the votes of legislators and the legislature as a whole once the session is over, but based on work completed so far, this is shaping up to be a fairly lackluster session for the environment.

While there have been some positive accomplishments, most notably a significant overhaul of Oregon’s bottle bill, and strong prospects for passage of school weatherization legislation early next week (see below), the Sierra Club and other conservation groups have had to focus on defense, stopping bad bills that would: ramp up unsustainable logging on state forests; make it easier to shoot wolves; overturn voter approved bans on hunting cougars with dogs; stop the DEQ from adopting new water quality protection rules; exempt biomass energy from greenhouse gas reporting programs; and expedite state permitting for proposed LNG pipelines.

Meanwhile, many positive bills have stalled, including a ban on single use plastic bags; an expansion of Oregon’s marine reserve system; a ban on the toxic chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) in children’s food containers; the creation of a system of protected conservation areas on state lands; and an effort create jobs through energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings.

Despite this, a key priority of the Sierra Club and Governor John Kitzhaber is on the right path in the legislature’s last days. HB 2960, the ‘cool schools’ bill, will set up a fund to allow schools across the state to weatherize and upgrade their heating and cooling systems. This will create jobs, save school districts money on utility bills over the long term so that more money can be invested in education, and make schools more comfortable and better learning environments for kids. This bill passed the House early last week, and is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Monday, June 20. Please email your Senators in support of HB 2960 TODAY!

Thank you for your support this legislative session. Check out our legislative tracker for more specific status updates on a range of environmental bills we’ve worked on this session.


State Legislative Update – May/June 2011

May 20, 2011

With only about one month left in the 2011 Oregon Legislative session, things are really heating up. Here’s the latest on a few of the issues we’re most focused on in Salem:

LNG pipelines – HB 2700 B – on Monday, May 23 at 3pm, the Senate Business, Transportation and Economic Development Committee will be holding a vote on HB 2700B and deciding whether to amend it or not. If the bill passes out of committee, it could be up for a vote on the Senate floor by the end of the week. This bill would expedite the application process for numerous ‘linear utilities,’ most notably controversial LNG pipelines. Please click here to send an email to your State Senator urging them to amend HB 2700B to exclude LNG pipelines, or vote against the bill.

Banning Single Use Plastic Bags – SB 536 - SB 536 is currently awaiting action in the Rules  Committee – it is reported to be only one vote short of passing in the Senate. Click here to send an email to your Senator today and urge them to vote ‘YES’ on SB 536. The ‘ban the bag’ bill is facing stiff opposition from out-of-state chemical companies that make plastic bags. Oregonians currently use over 1.7 billion disposable single-use plastic bags each year. These bags often end up in landfills or our roadsides, rivers and streams. Even so-called ‘recyclable’ plastic bags are often shipped overseas where they may end up clogging landfills, entering the Pacific Ocean, or being incinerated.

Energy Efficiency in Schools – HB 2960 – Sets up a new Clean Energy Deployment program to provide grants and loans for weatherization upgrades in K-12 schools across Oregon. Such a program would increase jobs in the weatherization industry while reducing energy consumption and saving school districts money on energy bills. A top priority of Governor Kitzhaber’s, this bill awaits action in the Ways and Means Committee, and is scheduled for a hearing and possible action on May 24. Please contact your State Legislators today to urge the passage of HB 2960 to help create jobs in energy efficiency in schools.

Banning Bisphenol A (BPA) from children’s drinking containers – SB 695SB 695 passed the Senate in early April (20-9) and received a public hearing in the House Energy, Environment and Water Committee on May 10. It is now stalled and needs your support to secure a vote in the Oregon House. Send an email to your legislators today urging them to vote ‘YES’ on SB 695. BPA is a synthetic estrogen that is used to make plastic bottles and food can linings. BPA in containers can leach into foods and liquids, and growing children are especially vulnerable to its harmful effects. This bipartisan legislation would ban BPA from baby bottles, infant formula containers, and water bottles, while requiring labeling of canned foods that are lined with BPA.  Even small amounts of BPA can be harmful and numerous scientific studies have linked the chemical – banned in Canada, the European Union and nine states – to health issues such as abnormal brain development, early onset of puberty, and low sperm counts in men.

State Forests – HB 2001 and more – HB 2001 would make timber production the primary purpose of publicly owned state lands like the Tillamook, Clatsop, Elliott, and Santiam State Forests. It is currently stalled in the Ways and Means Committee and though it would mark an extreme shift away from from a balanced management on state lands, it has been identified as a top ‘jobs’ bills for a coalition of industry groups. This means it could be alive until the final days of the legislative session, with our state forests once again becoming a political football. To underscore this, a similar bill to ramp up logging in the Tillamook State Forest that was presumed dead months ago, SB 464, was pulled to the Senate Floor for a vote on May 18 for some posturing by Senate Republicans on logging. Thankfully, their effort failed. Nonetheless, HB 2001 is still a major threat, please contact your State Legislator today and urge them to oppose HB 2001.

Wolves and Cougars- In late April, the House passed HB 3562 by a 51-7 vote to clarify that wolves can be shot in self-defense. Largely symbolic, this bill plays on the myth that wolves pose a threat to humans, but as written could be exploited by poachers looking for an excuse to kill one of Oregon’s fewer than 25 gray wolves. The good news is that two other bills to allow for the shooting of wolves within 500 feet of a residence, and another to reduce goals for wolf management both died without a vote in the House. HB 3562, however, is currently stalled in the Senate but could receive a hearing and possible vote before June 1. Also passing the House in late April by a 45-14 vote was HB 2337, which rolls back the voter-approved ban on hunting cougars with dogs. This too is stalled in the Senate but could receive committee hearing and possible vote before June 1. Contact your State Senators today and urge them to oppose HB 3562 and HB 2337 and protect Oregon’s wolves and cougars.

For other legislative updates, please visit our legislative tracker blog.


State Legislative Update: Wolves, Forests, Weatherization and more

April 15, 2011

Ivan Maluski from the Sierra Club addresses a crowd of citizen lobbyists at the annual Oregon Conservation Network environmental lobby day in Salem on April 7, 2011.

The 2011 Oregon Legislative session has reached the halfway mark. As committees race to meet April deadlines for action on hundreds of bills, the level of intensity on environmental legislation has increased dramatically.

Unfortunately, there are far more environmental threats moving forward than good pro-environment legislation. By the end of the week of April 18, the Oregon House will have potentially passed legislation to make it easier to shoot Oregon’s wolves, make timber production the primary purpose of our state lands, and rollback of voter-approved protections for cougars. Other bills getting hearings include an effort to restrict the Department of Environmental Quality from implementing new water quality standards meant to protect public health, and legislation that would declare biomass energy to be ‘carbon neutral’ while exempting biomass energy producers from greenhouse gas reporting rules.

Meanwhile, legislation to ban single-use plastic bags appears to be stalled, as is a bill that would stimulate green job creation by requiring energy performance scores for all buildings. Legislation that would speed state wetland crossing permits for LNG pipelines passed the House earlier this session, and will likely be taken up in the Senate in May.

As the cold and rainy weather continues to linger in Oregon this spring, only a few bright spots are emerging at the Oregon legislature – a key initiative of Governor Kitzhaber’s to create jobs by weatherizing Oregon schools appears to be moving forward, as is a ban on the chemical BPA in certain children’s food containers.

There is no time like the present to make your voice heard for Oregon’s wolves, forests, clean water and the climate! Click on the links above to learn more information about the legislation mentioned and find out how you can take action TODAY!


Clatsop County says NO to LNG

March 11, 2011

The site of the proposed Oregon LNG terminal whose land use approval was revoked this week.

Another victory in the struggle to prevent LNG development in Oregon! On March 9, the Clatsop County Commission voted 4-1 to revoke Oregon LNG’s land use approval.

Oregon LNG and its New York-based financial backers have already filed a lawsuit to overturn the Commission’s decision, revealing once again that companies seeking to develop LNG in Oregon have little respect for local communities.

In related news, the federal Ninth Circuit Court on March 2 threw out Bradwood Landing LNG’s license, finally killing the contested LNG import terminal 20 miles up the Columbia River from Astoria. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had granted Bradwood Landing LNG a license to build the terminal and associated pipelines in 2008. However, the lack of clear demand for the gas combined with years of effective citizen opposition to the development finally caught up with the Texas-based financial backers of the project, who declared bankruptcy last year.

Despite these recent victories, the Oregon Legislature continues to move forward with HB 2700, a bill that would speed state permitting for LNG pipelines. This bill passed the Oregon House on March 2 despite significant bipartisan opposition. It now awaits action in the Senate. Learn more and contact your State Senator here!


LNG Pipeline Bill Returns – Take Action Today!

February 13, 2011

Update: HB 2700 passed the Oregon House on March 2 and is on its way to the Senate.

Click here to send an email opposing HB 2700 to your State Senator TODAY!

For the third session in a row, a bill to change how state-issued wetland removal-fill permits are granted in Oregon is moving forward. HB 2700 passed the House Business Committee on Friday, February 11 and could be on the House floor for a vote within a week.

While the bill applies to more than just gas pipelines, it was originally introduced at the request of LNG companies seeking to expedite the Department of State Lands permitting process to facilitate the development of hundreds miles of proposed LNG pipelines in northwest and southwest Oregon.

In northern Oregon, HB 2700 could help speed the permitting and development of the 217-mile Palomar pipeline across the Mt. Hood National Forest and dozens of small farms, woodlots, streams and rivers in the Willamette Valley. This pipeline is associated with proposed the Oregon LNG import terminal near Astoria.

In southwest Oregon, HB 2700 could speed the permitting and development of the controversial 220-mile long Pacific Connector pipeline, which would cross dozens of rural properties, old growth forests, and important salmon-bearing rivers including the Rogue, Umpqua, Coquille, and Klamath. This pipeline is associated with the Jordan Cove LNG import terminal in Coos Bay.

Click here to send a message to your State Senator TODAY!

For info and updates on other bills the Sierra Club is tracking in the 2011 Oregon legislature, visit our State Legislative Tracker blog.


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