Take Action to Protect the Pacific Northwest from Nuclear Waste!

September 24, 2013

Dear Friend,

Leslie March and her mother

Leslie March and her mother in 1955

I first learned about “atomic waste” in my high chair; I grew up in the fifties in Washington State and my grandfather frequently had business at the Hanford Reservation (now the most contaminated nuclear waste site in North America). I remember my mother arguing with him about the dangers of nuclear waste: she was concerned about the health of the Columbia River; he trusted that the plant would be safe.

But my mother was right: the tanks containing highly radioactive waste are leaking, and the Columbia River is at risk.1

We now have the opportunity to protect communities across the nation from radioactive waste. Please take action today!

The reactors at Hanford are now closed. But when I discovered that another nuclear reactor (the same kind used at Fukushima) now operates within miles of the Columbia River, I was motivated to take action to protect the river, and began organizing in my community. I was dismayed when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently relicensed the Columbia Generating Station for another 20 years — even though they don’t have a solid plan for storing the waste safely.

Fortunately the courts are now requiring the NRC to have a moratorium on licensing until they do an environmental impact statement on the radioactive waste. Now we have a chance to protect the river by demanding that the waste be stored safely.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is now developing new rules for the long-term storage of highly radioactive waste from the nation’s nuclear reactors. These rules will determine whether or not your state becomes a transportation route for thousands of shipments of highly radioactive waste on super-trucksor a storage site for some or all of the 70,000+ tons of radioactive waste.

The federal government is now taking public comments on these rules: please tell the NRC to enact strong rules to protect our communities and environment.

We have a very unique opportunity to have a say in how our country handles radioactive waste from nuclear reactors in the future.  If we don’t step up and comment, we will have lost our ability to protect our grandchildren, and many generations to come, from the deadly dangers of radiation.

Let the NRC know that we are not confident with the current way they have regulated radioactive waste – they need to do more.

Thank you for everything you do for the environment,

Leslie March
Sierra Club Nuclear Program Volunteer Lead

P.S. After you’ve taken action, please forward a copy of this message to five of your friends and family. Or spread the word on your social networks with the share buttons below.

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[1] “Hanford Nuclear Reservation Tanks Leaking Radioactive Waste Underground, Governor Inslee Says,” AP/Huffington Post, February 22, 2013.


The Adverse Effects of Climate Change in Oregon

September 23, 2013

Climate change is gradually unveiling itself throughout the Pacific Northwest in a variety of ways, including alterations in precipitation and temperature that will ultimately affect numerous industries in the state of Oregon. More specifically, agriculture, skiing, forestry, and salmon will all be impacted by Oregon’s changing climate. Salmon are often identified as an iconic species for the Pacific Northwest, as well as a keystone species in many ecosystems, thus their endangerment as a result of warming temperatures is an extremely significant issue. Warmer temperatures in Oregon will result in more rain precipitation and less snowfall, which will cause overall smaller annual snow-packs and consequently altered stream-flow times. An increase in precipitation could potentially cause frequent floods, therefore increasing mortality rates among salmon eggs due to gravel aggravation. The salmon life cycle may also be affected as a result of snow-pack melting earlier in the spring, hence disrupting the normal migration patterns for sea-bound fish.  Additionally, warmer river temperatures bring an influx of problems for developing salmon, such as providing ideal habitat for other fish species that pose as competitors or predators of salmon, thus lowering their survival rates. Warm water temperatures may also provide insufficient nutrients and resources for developing salmon.

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye Salmon

Evidently, salmon will be negatively affected by climate change in countless ways, thus the management and restoration of salmon habitat has the utmost importance when dealing with global warming in the Pacific Northwest. Salmon are also crucial to the livelihoods of many Native American tribes of the Northwest, which is another incentive to protect and restore their delicate habitats. The Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition is a large group of organizations devoted to the protection and restoration of native salmon species in the Columbia and Snake river basins. Visit their page to learn more about their efforts in the Northwest!

While salmon will undoubtedly be adversely impacted by warming temperatures, there are other consequences of climate change in Oregon that also hold significance, such as agriculture. More frequent droughts could reduce water supply needed for sufficient irrigation, growing seasons could be altered, and an invasion of pests may arrive due to warmer temperatures. All of these concerns may jeopardize the stability of Oregon’s agriculture industry. Health distresses may also become significant if Oregon begins to see increased smog as a result of higher temperatures. Pollen seasons could be longer as well, posing additional threats to people with allergies or asthma. Economically, many industries in Oregon will most likely be affected because of a disruption in BPA hydroelectric power, due to a lower water supply in the summer months. Moreover, the skiing industry could disappear altogether if winter snow-pack is dramatically reduced. Frequent droughts in the summertime will bring recurrent and heightened wildfires, so the timber industry could likewise be adversely affected. Clearly, Oregon is already seeing the effects of a changing climate, but many unforeseen consequences are possible in the near future, which is why Oregonians need to use mitigation and management to alleviate these impending costs.  To learn more about climate change in Oregon, visit this OEC page for details regarding climate impacts, protection, solutions, and more!

The list of ways in which Oregon is affected by global warming is innumerable as well as unpredictable. Unfortunately, climate change is already underway, so many of these consequences are most likely irreversible. However, putting a stop to CO2 emissions could possibly help slow down the warming of our planet, thus discontinuing dirty oil and coal drilling could help to alleviate our problems. This is why climate change in Oregon can directly be related to oil exploration in the Arctic, because increased drilling would only increase our reliance on nonrenewable energy sources, hence furthering emissions and enhancing global warming. The Oregon Chapter of Sierra Club is working diligently to fight against Arctic oil development in the Chill the Drills campaign to help alleviate climate impacts not only in the Arctic, but in Oregon as well.


Photo Contest: Finding Ourselves in Nature

September 9, 2013

Waldo Lake - Brian Pasko PhotographyContest runs now through October 13, 2013

Many of us find fulfillment going out into nature, but why?  Explore the concept of human connection to the natural world.  Through photography, examine the ways that nature affects our emotions, relationships, and our personal and social identities.  Photographs could represent personal moments or reflections exploring this concept or could act as commentary on the state of the human relationship to nature.

Categories:

  1. The Human Connection to the Natural World:  Choose your favorite image of nature that elicits an emotional response within you or reflects your personal connection to the natural world.
  2. People in Nature:  Choose your favorite image of people enjoying nature.
  3. Nature and Human Behavior:  Submit an image that illustrates human behavior and its relationship to the natural world.

First Place prize in each category is a $50 gift card from Pro Photo Supply in Portland!
Second place prize in each category is a $25 gift card from Pro Photo Supply in Portland!

CONTEST DEADLINE IN OCTOBER 18, 2013
Click here for more details and to enter!


Finding Ourselves in Nature:  The Human Connection to the Natural World

PPS_Full_Color-big

The “Finding Ourselves in Nature” photo contest is sponsored by the Columbia Group of the Sierra Club and is being promoted in conjunction with the Sierra Club Columbia Group’s Adam Alabarca Sustainability Speaker Series.   Please join us for the event!

Adam Alabarca Sustainability Speaker Series:
Please join us for a presentation from Dr. Susan Clayton, Whitmore-Williams, Professor of Psychology at The College of Wooster, who will explore the human psychological relationship to nature, and how people and human behavior might be affected by environmental changes brought about by climate change and population growth.

Hollywood Theater, 4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd., Portland
October 30, 2013
Doors open 7:00 p.m.
Free and open to the public


Permafrost: Another Reason to Oppose Arctic Drilling

August 25, 2013

The Arctic is at the epicenter of several environmental and economic plover (1)crises involving land conservation, oil exploration, coal mining, global warming, and expanded development. An ecological phenomenon lies below this environmental hotspot and forms the foundation (literally) of the Alaskan Arctic; permafrost. Climate change has recently started to tamper with the stability of the active layer of permafrost, jeopardizing all of the aforementioned ventures and endangering the livelihoods of not only native ecosystems, but native inhabitants as well.

The disappearance of permafrost has a multitude of costs that are both short term and long term. The combined effects of oil development and melting permafrost could potentially create an extremely hazardous environment in the Arctic. Unstable, warmer permafrost is a result of rising temperatures in the North and causes land surfaces to be tremendously tenuous for structures, roads, and in particular, oil pipelines. Surface instability could break oil structures, thus triggering spills and leakages into the precious habitats of the Arctic. In addition to these direct consequences of permafrost degradation, there are also indirect effects of melting and decomposing permafrost, including the onslaught of methane into the atmosphere. Furthermore, there’s a possibility that either ocean or terrestrial permafrost could be holding gas hydrates, which are potentially huge sinks for methane. Because methane is a greenhouse gas, it causes the atmosphere to heat up, thus permafrost reduction is an example of a potential positive feedback loop between melting permafrost and increased climate change. While most of the harmful side effects of permafrost depletion are hypothetical and ambiguous, the prospective catastrophic consequences should not be ignored.

The delicate ecosystems of the North should not have to additionally deal with dangerous oil pipelines and increased development. Permafrost depletion is just one of many reasons oil companies should not drill in the pristine territories of Alaskan wilderness. Permafrost reduction and surface instability are two more reasons that must be added to the Chill the Drills list of defenses against oil development in the Arctic.

If you would like more information on the Arctic campaign here in Oregon sign our petition to Sen. Ron Wyden or contact our Arctic Organizer, Melissa (OregonArctic@gmail.com).

About the Chill the Drills campaign.


State Forest Management and Oregon’s Drinking Water

August 15, 2013
Trask River, Tillamook State Forest

Trask River, Tillamook State Forest

Sometimes it’s easy to think of Oregon’s forests as distant and removed–places meant for weekend escapes. The realities of how much our forests mean for our day-to-day lives can be striking. When we’re grilling salmon, breathing clean air, building additions to our homes, we’re using forest products. One of the most important forest products in Oregon is clean drinking water.

Most of the faucets, taps, and spigots in northwest Oregon have connections to the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests. Having a publicly-owned, temperate rainforest in our State is unique to Oregon, and this landscape provides drinking water to over 400,000 people. However, mismanagement of these lands threatens the quality of that water, our health, and our quality of life. Herbicides, silt, and high temperatures can all be attributed to inadequate stream buffers and an over-ambitious timber harvest program. While logging is an important part of Oregon’s economy, culture, and history, overdoing it compromises the other amazing benefits we receive from our State Forest lands. Our State Forests need a balanced management plan!

Roughly 75% of Washington County residents get their drinking water from the Tualatin Valley Watershed, which begins in the Tillamook State Forest and flows into the Willamette Valley. Hillsboro, Oregon’s 5th most populous city receives its water from Barney Reservoir on State Forest land. Other recipients of State Forest-influenced water include Beaverton, Forest Grove, Banks, Tigard, Tualatin, North Plains, and soon Sherwood. Oregon’s north coast communities, deeply tied to the forest product economy, also rely on these forests. Cities including Tillamook, Seaside, Garibaldi, Bay City, Manzanita, and Nehalem also collect water downstream of State Forest watersheds.

Barney Reservoir

Barney Reservoir

Post clear-cut herbicide application can lead to carcinogens entering water sources. Timber harvests on steep slopes produce water-blocking landslides and can dirty waterways with sediment. Small stream buffers mean an inadequate amount of shade and woody debris in  our rivers and streams. An expansive, expensive, and ill-maintained logging road system means silt and water flow disruption. These are just some of the water quality problems stemming from a timber-centric management plan.

Failed culvert at the Wolf Creek headwaters

Failed culvert at the Wolf Creek headwaters

In order to provide Oregonians with the Greatest Permanent Value, our State Forests need to be managed with an eye towards all of their inherent qualities, not just timber. Clean water requires adequate stream buffers, protection for steep slopes, and special consideration for important reservoirs. In short, our State Forest landscape needs permanent Conservation Areas that provide water quality assurances, support healthy fish and wildlife habitat, and allow us to recreate in places of spectacular natural beauty.

Tell Governor Kitzhaber and the Board of Forestry that any new Forest Management Plan needs superior conservation outcomes!


State Forest Terrestrial Anchors are worth exploring!

August 2, 2013

On July 16th, a group of adventurous hikers trekked into the Bastard Creek Terrestrial Anchor in the Tillamook State Forest near Nehalem.  The 5,021 acre area provides critical habitat for marbled murrellet and wild salmon. Without path or plan, we embarked to see what this area had to offer in terms of wildlife, flora, sounds, sights, and challenges. Here are some images of our jaunt:

Map of the Bastard Creek Terrestrial Anchor. Our trek took us to the northeast corner.

Map of the Bastard Creek Terrestrial Anchor. Our trek took us to the northeast corner.

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Forest Ecologist Trygve Steen filled the expedition with knowledge. Here he cores a 110-year-old Western Hemlock.

Greg Jacob clambers over blown down trees.

Greg Jacob clambers over blown down trees.

The Bastard Creek area is newly classified “High Value Conservation Area” but its future is uncertain. The Board of Forestry is re-examining their Forest Management Plan and there is no guarantee that Conservation Areas will gain the long-term protection that is needed to support healthy fish and wildlife habitat and clean drinking water.

Oregon’s State Forests need a balanced plan that includes long-term conservation commitments. Click here to do your part for Oregon’s forest legacy!

Click here to check out other opportunities to get into the North Coast State Forests!


We’re Hiring (an Administrative Assistant)!

July 22, 2013

   
Do you enjoy working with volunteers? 

Are you passionate about protecting Oregon’s environment?

Do you want to help a leading Oregon conservation organization
succeed in achieving its mission?


Well, we’ve got the job for you!
 The Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club is hiring a part time (3 days/week) administrative assistant to fill a crucial role in our organization. Based in Portland, Oregon, the administrative assistant will report to the Oregon Chapter Director and work closely with other Sierra Club staff and volunteer leaders. The Administrative Assistant performs various administrative duties to support the day to day operations of the Oregon Chapter including general office duties, database entry and donation tracking, coordinating chapter activities and meetings, interacting with volunteers, and responding to routine inquires from members, volunteers, and the general public. Click here to learn more and read the full job description.

The Sierra Club offers a salary package commensurate with skills and experience plus excellent benefits that include medical, dental, and vision coverage, and a retirement savings 401(k) plan. The Sierra Club is an equal opportunity employer committed to a diverse workforce.

To Apply:

Please email a cover letter, resume, salary expectations, and three references to brian.pasko@sierraclub.org. Please send documents as a Microsoft Word or pdf file and use “Administrative Assistant Application” as the subject for your email.  Sending us a single file (vs. multiple files) that we can forward to our interview committee is helpful and appreciated, but not mandatory.  This position will remain open until filled and we will begin reviewing resumes on August 5, 2013.  No calls, please.


Portland’s Forest Park: Going, Going, Gone?

July 12, 2013
 forest park2.JPG

Portland’s Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world and the only city wilderness park in the United States. It has more native wildlife species than any other city park in the nation, and has been identified by scientists as having more “interior forest habitat” than any other urban park in the world. For the last 65 years, it has been carefully managed by Portland Parks and Recreation, to keep its wilderness values intact, and to keep the health of its natural resources as its highest priority.

Today, Forest Park managers face pressure to balance conservation of the Park’s ecosystem with the development that comes with growing public use and the desire for expanded recreational opportunities.

Marcy Houle, a biologist who has researched Forest Park for over thirty years and written the guidebook, One City’s Wilderness: Portland’s Forest Park, will discuss the new plan currently being presented by Portland Parks and Recreation to change the park. She will discuss what this might mean for its wildlife, its water resources (currently the healthiest in the city of Portland), and for current park users. She will present the fascinating history of Forest Park, introduce the people who fought to create and preserve it, and discuss the important role that stewards must play today if Forest Park is to remain as the nation’s only urban wilderness and Portland’s greatest natural treasure.

WHAT?  Portland’s Forest Park: Going, Going, Gone?
WHY?
Learn more about the future of Portland’s Forest Park. Enjoy food and drinks, make new friends and reconnect with old ones. Pizza and beverages will be provided. Please bring a dish to share.

WHEN?
Thursday, July 18
6:30 p.m. – Refreshments
7:00 p.m. – Program

WHERE?  
Sierra Club Office
1821 SE Ankeny Street, Portland
(map)
For more information, please contact Jeff Fryer at jeff.fryer@sierraclub.org.

Oregon Chapter takes on Chill the Drills Campaign

July 8, 2013

Protecting America’s Arctic from oil development is a prominent issue that demands nationwide support, which is why the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club is finally taking charge to stop additional oil drilling in Alaska.

Chill the Drills CampaignAlaska is home to America’s greatest wilderness that encompasses a wide range of refuges and habitats, including the coastal plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the pristine Brooks Range Mountains and the vast Chukchi Sea. Protecting these areas from oil development has the utmost importance because they’re home to numerous endangered species, including the famed polar bear. While the Arctic is under the spotlight for oil development, it’s also a region that could potentially be hardest hit by the side effects of global warming. The combined pressures of both climate change and oil drilling completely jeopardize the health and beauty of Alaska’s wilderness, which is why Oregonians need to step up and let our politicians know our stance on the issue of oil drilling.

Coal mining and oil drilling in the Arctic will continue America’s reliance on dirty, nonrenewable energy sources which will further the negative consequences of global warming. By protecting the migratory corridors between wilderness areas and refuges in Alaska, wildlife will have easier access to move when pressures from global warming and oil development transpire.

The Sierra Club, including the Oregon Chapter, is now working with the Obama Administration as well as Congress, to pass legislature to permanently protect the numerous wilderness areas in Alaska. In addition, the Sierra Club is also working with Alaskan Native communities to protect their subsistence livelihoods from resource depletion by oil companies. An Arctic Conservation Plan is also in the works to organize a comprehensive preservation strategy to permanently protect the coastal areas of the Arctic Refuge and the Arctic Ocean.

Oregonians can play their part in the Chill the Drills campaign  by contacting Senator Wyden and asking him to advocate for permanent protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


The 2013 legislative session nears its end

June 27, 2013

At long last, the 2013 Oregon Legislative session is winding down. We’ve tracked many bills this session, had countless meetings with legislators, and Oregon capitolprovided important testimony to legislative committees on numerous occasions. And while the final gavel hasn’t dropped yet, we’ve got a pretty good sense of where the Oregon Chapter stands with regard to our legislative wins and losses. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights:

  •   Waldo Lake:  Perhaps our biggest accomplishment of the session was the passage of Senate Bill 602, which banned the use of motorized boats and floatplanes on Waldo Lake. Waldo Lake is one of Oregon’s largest natural lakes and is a destination for paddlers, hikers, and cyclists. Motorized boats and floatplanes disrupt the peaceful serenity recreational users seek and the planes also pose safety concerns. But as of May 16, when the Governor signed the bill, those motors and floatplanes are no longer allowed at Waldo!
  •   Solar Resource Value:  The original intent of House Bill 2893 was to establish a rate for solar power that electric utilities would be required to pay individuals who produced excess solar power on their homes and businesses. However, as often happens, the bill the Governor signed on May 28 was quite different, but is still a step in the right direction and sets the stage for more meaningful action during the 2015 legislative session. It directs the Public Utilities Commission to conduct a study over the next year to evaluate the barriers to the generation of solar power, determine the effectiveness of various programs to advance solar generation, find methods for establishing a resource value for solar power, and make recommendations for modifying existing programs or creating new programs for the development of solar power.  The bill also extended the existing solar feed-in-tariff through 2016 and adds 2.5MW of capacity to advance mid-sized commercial solar projects.
  •   Appliance Efficiency Standards:  Senate Bill 692, signed by the Governor on June 13, established new and strong energy efficiency standards for battery chargers, televisions, and some outdoor lighting. This bill, which was one of the Oregon Conservation Network’s Priorities for a Healthy Oregon, will save Oregonians millions of dollars annually and will help the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It will also prevent Oregon from becoming a dumping ground for inefficient appliances as California has already adopted these same standards.
  •   Clean Fuels Program:  Another of OCN’s priorities, Senate Bill 488, is unfortunately stuck in limbo at the moment. This bill would extend Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program, which set forth standards for reducing the amount of carbon in transportation fuels. These standards are set to sunset in 2014, but SB 488 would extend the program, ensuring a significantly lower amount of greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. Please contact your legislator today to help get SB 488 moving before time runs out!
  •   Energy Performance Standards:  Senate Bill 242, signed by the Governor on May 16, amends and extends the Energy Performance Standards adopted in 2009, which prevent Oregon utilities from entering into contracts to provide coal-generated electricity to Oregonians. In light of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign to move Oregon past its dependence on fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy, this was an important priority for us.
  •   Endangered Wolves:  In a victory brokered by our partners at Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands, we weighed in to help ensure the passage of an historic agreement to protect Oregon’s endangered wolves. House Bill 3452 memorializes an agreement between conservation groups and ranchers that sets up standards by which problem wolves can be dealt with. And while the agreement doesn’t stop the killing of all wolves, it does provide strong sideboards and requirements for the livestock industry and requires the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to work in a more transparent way and prioritize conservation and conflict prevention. As of this writing, the bill has passed both chambers and was on its way to the Governor for his signature.
  •   Defense of Renewable Portfolio Standards:  Like every legislative session in recent memory, we saw numerous attacks on Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standards, which require that large utilities source 25 percent of their energy from clean, renewable sources by 2025. Luckily we worked with our conservation partners to ensure that none of those attempts were successful this session.
  •   Hunting Cougars with Dogs:  There were several attempts this session to roll back the 1994 decision by Oregonians to ban the hunting of cougars with dogs. One of those bills, House Bill 2624, would have allowed counties to vote to opt out of the statewide ban. Not only would that be bad for cougars, it would also have set a terrible precedent for counties to be able to avoid complying with statewide laws. We and our allies worked hard to stop HB 2624, which passed the House but never made it out of its Senate committee.
  •   O&C Lands:  We worked with coalition partners to prevent the passage of Senate Joint Memorial 10, which would have put the Oregon Legislature on record as supporting weakened protections for O&C Lands in our state. SJM 10 would have recommended the creation of a trust that would result in increased logging and lessened environmental protections for these lands. Even though the bill had broad bipartisan support at the outset, we helped convince legislators that such an approach was unwise and the memorial never made it out of the Senate Rules committee.
  •   “Heritage Guest Ranch” in the Metolius Basin:  House Bill 3536 would have created an exemption from Oregon land use laws for a single family to build a resort-style development outside Sisters, Oregon. The bill would have allowed the developer to avoid destination resort requirements that protect natural resources and nearby property owners from adverse impacts. We worked with our partners to put a stop to this bill which would have gutted Oregon’s long-established goal of preventing sprawl and preserving natural resources by encouraging building within urban growth boundaries.
  • Canola Ban for the Willamette Valley:  House Bill 2427 effectively bans the growing of canola in the Willamette Valley until at least 2019, though it does allow Oregon State University to grow some pilot projects for research purposes. We worked with our allies at the Friends of Family Farmers to support this bill in order to protect the many specialty crops in the Willamette Valley which could be cross-contaminated by the growing of canola. HB 2427 passed the Senate on July 1 and now heads to the Governor for his signature.
  • GMO Crop Pre-emption: We worked with coalition partners to put a stop to Senate Bill 633, which would have disallowed Oregon counties from banning the planting of genetically-modified crops. The bill was specifically directing at pre-empting voters in Jackson County from voting on a measure in 2014 that would ban GMO crops in the county in order to protect organic farmers. This anti-democratic bill was simply bad policy and had seemed dead much earlier in the session, only to raise its head from the grave in the waning days. As of this writing, however, it seems to have crawled back into the grave for good.

We hope no other shenanigans take place in the waning days of the 2013 session. But crazy things can happen in the frenzy before sine die, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on things in Salem. Keep your fingers crossed and stay tuned for more developments!


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