Report from Sutton Mountain

May 8, 2014

 

DSC_0112The High Desert Committee led a trip to the Sutton Mountain wilderness study area at the end of April. Located near Mitchell, Oregon and adjacent to the Painted Hills National Monument, Sutton Mountain provides a birds-eye view of the colorful striations of the Painted Hills, created by wind, time and geologic activity.

After a hike through Black Canyon to gain the upper plateau, the group was treated to blooming hedgehog cacti along the rim. Lunch was spent enjoying the stunning vistas and basking in the sun, then Borden Beck led the climb down along what was surely a mountain goat trail.

Sierra Club outings allow you to explore and enjoy areas of Oregon that you may or may not be familiar with. Experienced volunteer leaders share their favorite areas of Oregon and talk about efforts to protect these areas so that future generations can enjoy these wild areas as we see them now.

Click here to discover a Sierra Club outing in your area.

Click here to read more about the Oregon Chapter’s High Desert Committee and how you can get involved.


Habitat Conservation Plans – A Tool for State Forests

April 23, 2014

Over the next year, the Department of Forestry will be reviewing and possibly re-writing the administrative rules that dictate management of Oregon’s state forests, defining the future of some of our state’s most vital natural spaces. Pressures to increase logging on the Tillamook and Clatsop forests is intense. Populations of marbled murrelets, spotted owls, Coho salmon, red tree voles, and other species already struggle to thrive within those borders without the threat of increased timber sales and management that prioritizes short-term profits over long-term forest health. Those most vulnerable species are only signposts for the vibrancy of the entire temperate eco-systems in these emblematic forests.

Coho Salmon are listed under the Endangered Species Act

Coho Salmon are listed under the Endangered Species Act

Every citizen of Oregon has a strong interest in the management of our entrusted state forest land, and a duty to advocate for prudent land use! In the past, the relationship between conservationists and timber companies and their proponents has been defined by embittered conflict and hostility – and often lawsuits. While seeking injunctions can be a strategic method for halting dangerous and illegal practices, there are other methods for pursuing conflict resolution and creating viable strategies for species preservation.

The Endangered Species Act contains a provision for Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) – a series of permits and mitigation planning that is usually pursued by non-federal entities that want to build on or log land where endangered species reside. Permits allow the construction or other activity, and the Habitat Conservation Plan explains how the party will help the population grow in other ways. Without vigilant oversight from citizens and non-profits, HCP’s can become unwieldy and risky management plans that harm endangered species.  However, they can also be a powerful tool.  The State of Oregon could seek an HCP on state forest land to limit the potential for messy and expensive lawsuits, create important wildlife habitat, and provide certainty around timber revenue.

Read more here to learn more about the history of Habitat Conservation Plans and what they might mean for Oregon’s state forests.


Happy Earth Day to Seneca Jones!

April 22, 2014

2457514213_a8e4935293_bIn the ongoing saga of the State Land Board’s decision to sell off portions of the Elliott State Forest to meet its mandates under the Common School Fund, Seneca Jones Timber Company received an early Earth Day present earlier this week. As reported in the Oregonian, Seneca Jones submitted the winning bid on the 788-acre East Hakki Ridge tract, getting the parcel for pennies on the dollar: $1.9 million for timber valued by the State of Oregon at more than $5.5 million.

 

 

6739370953_a6e9ef6619_b

Luckily, our coalition partners at Cascadia Wildlands, Portland Audubon, and the Center for Biological Diversity have stepped in to file suit to prevent what is likely an illegal sale of this tract. As the Court decides on the request for a preliminary injunction to stop the sale, the State Department of Justice has agreed to hold off on closing the sale until after May 1.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club and our coalition partners continue to urge the State Land Board — made up of Gov. John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown, and Treasurer Ted Wheeler — and other state leaders in Salem to pursue a solution for the Elliott that protects the unique forest and keeps it in public ownership, while also satisfying the school fund mandate required by these lands. The bright side of the low monetary value for the three parcels that were sold is that it helps us to make the case that it’s even more affordable than we might have thought for the State to buy out the Elliott from its Common School Fund burdens and transfer the land to Oregon State Parks, for instance.

4942

Clearly, the drama at the Elliott State Forest is about to get a lot more interesting, so stay tuned!


Join us in the High Desert this Summer!

April 3, 2014
Anderson Crossing

Anderson Crossing, Oregon High Desert

Southeastern Oregon has some of the most wild and pristine landscapes in the continental United States. Stunning rock formations, endless vistas and wild lands are waiting to be explored, most without developed trails to mark human existence.

If you are the adventurous type, consider joining the Sierra Club’s High Desert Committee on a trip to Oregon’s High Desert this summer. We have trips planned to:
  • Sutton Mountain, in the John Day River area
  • Leslie Gulch, in the Owyhee Canyonlands
  • Anderson Crossing, in the Owyhee Canyonlands
  • Steens Mountain
We have trips for all levels of hikers, with special trips for camera buffs and those who are service-minded. For more informations, visit our website at http://oregon.sierraclub.org/conserv/hidsrt/outings.asp

You can determine the fate of Oregon’s Environment and Wild Places!

April 1, 2014


WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT!
Your gift directly to the Oregon Chapter today guarantees that 100%

of your contribution will make a difference right here in Oregon!

Dear Sierra Club Supporter,

Waldo Lake - Brian Pasko Photography

Your generous donation to the Oregon Chapter can help us protect places like Waldo Lake, Oregon’s second largest lake and one of the three purest water bodies in the world.  Your gift to the Oregon Chapter is a guaranteed investment in the future of Oregon’s environment and public lands.Dear Sierra Club Supporter,

You play a critical role in protecting Oregon’s environment! Today you have an important opportunity to make a donation directly to the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club and ensure that 100% of your donation will support the Sierra Club’s efforts right here in Oregon.

The Oregon Chapter has only one month each year to reach out for our annual fundraising appeal. We rely on your donation each year to continue our important work. Please consider a generous gift to the Oregon Chapter today!

The Sierra Club in Oregon has a tremendous record of success and your donation today will be a guaranteed investment toward the future of the Oregon’s environment and public lands! During this past year, the Oregon Sierra Club’s volunteers and staff secured important conservation victories for Oregon:

  • Sea planes and motor boats on Waldo Lake—BANNED!
  • A new designation to protect critical state forest habitat—SECURED!
  • Plans to build coal export terminals at the Port of Coos Bay and Port of St. Helens—DEFEATED!
  •  An industry-backed attempt to roll back Oregon’s leading renewable energy policies —THWARTED!
  •  Legislation that sought to harm wolves and cougars —BLOCKED!
  •  Thousands of engaged citizens who care about Oregon’s environment and energy future – MOBILIZED!

Your donation to the Oregon Chapter today will help will help us continue our efforts to protect Oregon’s environment and public lands in the coming year, including the Sierra Club’s work to:

  • protect Oregon’s wild forest and high deserts,
  • stop proposals to export coal, natural gas, and oil overseas using Oregon’s rail lines and ports, and
  • advance policies and programs that will dramatically increase Oregon’s use of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

And, while conservation victories are important, that isn’t all we’re doing! In 2013 Sierra Club volunteers led hundreds of outings in Oregon. We’re also investing in new outreach tools to bolster our conservation work and engage the next generation of Sierra Club supporters. Check out our website and like us on Facebook to see what is coming up. Sign up for ouraction alerts and monthly e-mail newsletter.  Get involved!

I’m not writing this to someone else─this message is to you. Someone who enjoys all the beautiful things our state has to offer and shares our vision for an even better Oregon─a vision of clear skies, old growth forests, free-flowing salmon-filled streams, and wide open vistas. If you like what we’ve been doing and want us to be able to keep making Oregon a better place to live and explore, please consider a donation to the Oregon Chapter today. We need your support!

Thank you. We can’t do what we do without you.

signature

 

 

 

 

Brian Pasko,
Director Oregon Chapter Sierra Club

P.S. Would you please consider a monthly contribution to the Oregon Chapter? A gift of just $10/month will help provide the financial stability we need to continue our work in Oregon.But, no matter how you choose to give, every dollar counts, and your support is tremendously appreciated. Please help us continue our work to protect Oregon’s air, water, and precious public lands.


ODF Needs Revenue Diversification

March 25, 2014

The Oregon Department of Forestry is almost totally reliant on timber dollars to manage our state forests. This model of funding is failing to provide sufficient revenue for ODF. Moreover, it forces the Department to log at unsustainable levels that do not allow for adequate conservation, leaving the state susceptible to messy and expensive ESA lawsuits.

Pennoyer Creek Falls

Timber harvest is a critical revenue source for the Department and provides important family-wage jobs to Oregonians. However, it should only be a part of the equation to provide solvency for ODF. The Tillamook and Clatsop forests provide a range of values to all Oregonians–clean drinking water, diverse recreation, fishing and hunting opportunities, scenic beauty, and wildlife habitat. If the Department’s revenue continues to come wholly from timber dollars, these other values will eventually be lost.

Tell Governor Kitzhaber to lead the effort to diversify ODF funding!


Great OpEd in the Oregonian on Pacific Power and coal

March 25, 2014

Amy Hojnowski, Sierra Club senior campaign representative on the Beyond Coal Campaign, had a great OpEd published in the Oregonian recently. Can you write a Letter to the Editor to the Oregonian telling Pacific Power it’s time to get off dirty coal? Some sample talking points and instructions for submitting an LTE are below Amy’s OpEd.

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2014/03/pacificorp_is_making_oregonian.html

PacifiCorp is making Oregonians invest in coal plants: Guest opinion

March 20, 2014 at 2:10 PM, updated March 20, 2014 at 2:12 PM

colstrip

The Colstrip power plant is the second largest coal-fired plant west of the Mississippi. PacifiCorp is among its owners.

By Amy Hojnowski

Most Oregonians have seen their electricity bills increase over the past several years, but those who get their electricity from Pacific Power have seen their bills skyrocket. On Monday, the Oregon Public Utilities Commission (OPUC) took this issue head-on during a final hearing on the long-term energy mix of PacifiCorp, which operates as Pacific Power in Oregon.

For over a year, the commission has scolded and pushed PacifiCorp to better protect its customers from unnecessary rate increases. The commission has reason to be concerned: Pacific Power raised its rates more than any other major utility in the region. An analysis of reports from the Edison Electric Institute shows that Oregon Pacific Power has increased customers’ rates by 61 percent since 2006, the year after Warren Buffet bought the utility.

What may surprise Oregon customers is that last year PacifiCorp got 78 percent of its electricity from polluting coal plants. A further surprise is that PacifiCorp has busily spent over $2 billion on those aging coal plants, mostly on things no one is requiring them to do. And they expect to spend another $2 billion on the plants in Utah and Wyoming. Oregon customers are on the hook for 25 percent of that spending.

Why is PacifiCorp spending Oregonians’ dollars on coal plants in other states? It’s pretty simple: Utilities make a lot of money on capital expenditures that pay a fat, steady rate of return. So, instead of giving Oregon commissioners an opportunity to figure out if it was a better deal for customers to put the aging coal plants on a retirement schedule and move to cleaner sources of energy, PacifiCorp went ahead with its plans.

The upshot of all of this is that PacifiCorp is committing Oregon customers to aging coal plants by spending more money on them, reaping a nearly guaranteed rate of return on the spending, and shipping the profits to owner Warren Buffett, of Berkshire Hathaway fame, who reported a record $19 billion in profits last year.

Buffett’s company didn’t have to pour Oregon money into risky coal plants; other utilities in the West, including two others owned by Buffett, are moving away from expensive coal plants that require pollution controls and upgrades to continue operating, and toward affordable solar and wind power that lock in stable electricity rates for the long-term. For example, utility regulators in New Mexico recently approved Xcel Energy’s plan to purchase close to 700 megawatts of wind energy, saving its customers an estimated $590 million in fuel costs over 20 years.

Now, the OPUC is shining a bright light on PacifiCorp’s “spend first and ask later” approach. PacifiCorp has fought mightily to keep regulators, and by extension its customers, from knowing the full risks and costs of relying on coal. At the final hearing on Monday, the commissioners vigorously questioned PacifiCorp’s transparency, with Commissioner John Savage saying: “We really don’t want any more surprises in terms of already-launched construction.”

If PacifiCorp changes its long-term energy plan to include less coal and more clean energy, it’ll be good news for Oregon customers’ pocketbooks and for our economy. Oregon ranks fifth in the nation for total wind energy installation and has more than 122 solar companies working here, but PacifiCorp’s long-term energy plan does not include any investments in new clean energy technologies like wind and solar projects for 10 more years. PacifiCorp should invest in our clean energy economy at home instead of sending our money out-of-state to pay for dirty coal plants.

Oregonians can’t afford business as usual from Pacific Power. The OPUC rightly held the company’s feet to the fire on Monday. Now we can only hope that Warren Buffett and the rest of his team will do right by their customers and put coal in our rear-view mirror.

Amy Hojnowski, of Portland, is the senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Can you write a Letter to the Editor of the Oregonian?

If you’d be willing to submit an LTE to the Oregonian, we would really appreciate it, and it would be an effective way to get the attention of PacifiCorp and decisionmakers. Some sample talking points are below, but the best idea is to write something in your own words. The Oregonian restricts LTEs to 150 words, so try to keep your letter concise. Once you have composed your letter, copy and paste it into an e-mail to letters@oregonian.com (do not send it as an attachment – they won’t open it). You should also include your full address and daytime phone number, for verification purposes.

Here are some basic themes to consider for your letter:

• Show support of the PUC for their dogged criticism of the company’s coal analysis.
• Express concern over the highest rate increases in the region because of their dependence on out of state coal.
• Show support for retiring coal plants, moving away from dirty coal, creating a coal free Oregon, and transitioning to clean renewable energy like wind and solar that create jobs here at home.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,680 other followers