A Not-So-Special Result from the Oregon Legislature’s Special Session

October 10, 2013

Oregon capitolThe Oregon Legislature convened on September 30 for what was supposed to be a one-day session to resolve some matters related to PERS and revenue reform. As many of you no doubt heard, the process was tarnished by the last-minute addition of a bill to remove local control of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) crops. The Sierra Club was dismayed by this development, but we worked with our allies to try and stop that bill. Unfortunately, because it was attached to the must-pass package of spending bills, the bill went through anyway (our coalition’s statement upon passage is below). While that result was certainly disappointing, we do hope that the Governor’s promise to meaningfully address the issues at a statewide level will bring about some real action on the regulation and labeling of GMOs in Oregon.


October 2, 2013

The rights of farmers to protect their crops from unwanted GMO contamination and the rights of consumers to make informed purchases should never have been at issue during a special session dealing with PERS and revenue reform. Trading away environmental protections in unrelated legislative negotiations is an all too common practice that’s bad for not just democracy but also the people of Oregon. Unfortunately, the PERS and revenue reform package included SB 863, which prohibits local communities from taking action to address issues related to their food and agriculture system, including conflicts related to genetically modified organisms.

While we strongly opposed SB 863 and its inclusion in the unrelated legislative package, we are encouraged by the governor’s commitment to making real, substantive progress on GMO issues across Oregon.

The governor committed to developing a statewide policy that prevents GMO contamination of non-GMO crops under existing Department of Agriculture authority by June 2014. He will also convene a special task force that will provide expert recommendations on state policy and on legislation that will be introduced in 2015 to address liability and compensation issues related to GMO contamination and consumers’ right to know what’s in their food.

While the legislature should never have agreed to remove the ability of local communities to have a say on GMO issues that affect them, we’re looking forward to working with both the governor and legislative leaders in creating a robust statewide policy that seeks to prevent GMO contamination, address compensation for farmers affected by GMO contamination, and protect Oregonians’ rights to make informed food purchasing decisions.

Oregon Environmental Council

Oregon League of Conservation Voters

Friends of Family Farmers

Organically Grown Company

Oregon Tilth

Sierra Club

Supporting the Sierra Club at work – it’s never been easier!

October 10, 2013

logoHow concerned are you with the quality of the air you breathe? How about the water you drink? With threats to our natural environment growing each day, we count on conservation groups across Oregon and our country to protect our forests, farmland, streams and air quality.

The Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club is a member of EarthShare Oregon, which engages private- and public-sector employees across the state to support nonprofits like ours. With a single gift to EarthShare Oregon, you can help 80 of the best environmental organizations here at home, and from coast to coast.

If you work for the State of Oregon, the federal government, Kaiser Permanente, NW Natural, PGE, or one of more than 100 employers, you make regular donations from your paycheck – simply and without any guesswork.

*Your employer may double your donation*

In fact, if you donate through EarthShare Oregon, your employer may pitch in too! Your $100 donation could become $150, or even $200. That’s what these companies have pledged to do:

American Express
Ameriprise Financial Advisors
Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects
Anthro Inc.
GE Healthcare
Green Mountain Energy
Hewlett Packard
Iberdrola Renewables
JPMorgan Chase
Kaiser Permanente
McKenzie River Broadcasting
Norm Thompson Outfitters
NW Natural
ODS Health Plans
Organically Grown Co.
Piper Jaffray
Portland General Electric
The Standard
United Health Group
Zimmer Gunsul Frasca

Consider increasing your gift by up to 100 percent without any extra effort! By giving through payroll contribution, you can give a larger gift by spreading the payment out over a year’s time. No personal checks to write or credit card numbers to give out – the money is automatically donated from your regular paycheck.

If your workplace is not currently involved in an EarthShare giving campaign, establishing one is easy. EarthShare will work with your employer to set up a program that meets your company’s needs.

To learn more about EarthShare Oregon and its workplace giving campaigns, visit earthshare-oregon.org.

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.


  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!

Click here for more details and to enter!

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


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!


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