Albuquerque Wilderness 50 Celebration – Take-Aways

November 4, 2014
Proxy Falls Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon, USA

By Thomas Goebel, age 18
Jensen Beach, Florida, USA

I was privileged to attend the Albuquerque 50th Anniversary celebration of the signing of the Wilderness Act by President Johnson. There were two days of local area field trips or a pre-conference training at the Rio Grande Nature Center, followed by four days of panels, keynote speeches, and exhibits at the downtown Hyatt Regency Conference Center and the Albuquerque Convention Center.

I’d like to share some of the thoughts that the Celebration gave me about Wilderness, the Wilderness Act, and lands protection in general; and what they mean to the Sierra Club, as well as all conservation organizations, as we go forward into the 21st Century in a very changed political and public reality.
But first, a bit more about the Celebration.

By Rodney Lough Jr., PRO Happy Valley, Oregon, USA Rodney Lough Jr. Wilderness Collections www.rodneyloughjr.com

By Rodney Lough Jr., PRO
Happy Valley, Oregon, USA
Rodney Lough Jr. Wilderness Collections
http://www.rodneyloughjr.com

The Wilderness50 planning team was created as a corporation with 30 members, including all the key government land agencies and national conservation non-profit organizations. More than a 100 additional organizations, foundations, and businesses provided funding and resources for the celebration. For more on this, go to: http://www.wilderness50th.org/about.php. This resulted in a six day event in Albuquerque and the surrounding area featuring field trips, training, exhibitions, 84 presenter panels, 20 keynote speakers, and many social events that connected together a broad range of government employees, activists, academics, and business people in celebration of 50 years of Wilderness for the American people. It was exceedingly well planned and executed, a tribute to the many people in our country who care about our natural legacy.

By Joe LeFevre Oswego, New York, USA

By Joe LeFevre
Oswego, New York, USA

With so many exciting events all happening at the same time, no one person could be at even a small percentage of them, so every attendee likely came away with different message. Here’s what I came away with:

Downers:

Wilderness, and lands protection in general, is in trouble! Even the Wilderness we already have!! As Keynoter Chris Barns (Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center) so eloquently stated: all three support legs of the Wilderness stool are broken. Those are 1) public support, 2) government agency funding and training, and 3) non-profit focus. The latter two are a reflection of the first – a broad erosion in public support for the concept that our pristine public lands need to be protected for future generations.

Lands stewardship is being broadly neglected by the government agencies. This is a result of a lack of funding from, and in many cases, downright hostility by members of Congress to the concept of public lands protection, even to those already protected. This is resulting in an increasing number of destructive activities occurring without preventive action, and even authorization by government agencies of illegal activities on protected lands.
Climate change is threatening the health of all public lands. There is very little planning and no funding to mitigate this threat. The “management” of Wilderness Areas is a controversial issue, but climate change, as well as the century long exclusion of fire, are dramatic human “trammels” upon the naturalness of Wilderness, so we need an intelligent conversation about how we deal with these situations.

Uppers:

Young people!! I looked around and couldn’t believe my eyes – there were young people everywhere. Woo-hoo!
There were so many energetic, intelligent, and eloquent activists from all persuasions: government; non-profit; academic; and public. It gave me great hope.
Universal recognition by all sectors represented that we must do more, much more, to educate and sell the need for lands protection, especially Wilderness, to the Public. It must be our focus, otherwise we will fail in this century to keep the protected lands that we have.

So, what to do?

Educate the Public – We must educate the Public, not just on a generic need for Wilderness or lands protection, but about what it does for them at a personal level: clean water, clean air, solitude, a connection to nature, a home for their favorite animal or tree or flower, or preservation of their favorite place for hiking, hunting, fishing or camping. This education effort needs to become part of everything we do.
Connect with Young People – We need a greater focus on connecting with young people. This can happen by reaching out to the schools, but is becoming an increasing challenge with the narrowing focus on “curriculums”, such as Common Core, and falling public school funding around the country. We must be creative in tailoring our appeal to be part of the school’s curriculum needs. Also, see the next item on stewardship.
Become Stewards – Stewardship must become part of our conservation advocacy program. Sierra Club has not traditionally focused on stewardship, but we must add this to our portfolio. I heard many wonderful stories of agency/non-profit stewardship collaboration that’s making a real difference. It’s a highly effective way to connect with young and old, and get them engaged, educated, and trained. Plus, it creates publicity and legitimacy for all our conservation goals.
Lobby – Every lobbying effort with members of Congress needs to include advocacy for increasing funding for protected lands stewardship. The Wilderness Act and many other laws require the lands agencies to do this, but without funding and direction from Congress, it is not being done.
Use Economics – I was astonished to see photos of Bend Oregon’s Old Mill District on the screen in Albuquerque, but John Sterling of The Conservation Alliance and Ben Alexander from Headwaters Economics used Bend as their primo example for how protected lands can rejuvenate a community. Even where the other benefits from protected lands are rejected as “wasting our resources”, the $ still changes minds. Go to http://headwaterseconomics.org/ – the amount of locale specific information available there for free is truly amazing.
Open Minded Thinking – We need to question old attitudes about Wilderness management and future lands protection models, as well as our willingness to work with those with whom we disagree. We are facing new challenges with climate change and a burgeoning population. Our old protection models may no longer be possible in many places, but new models may gain acceptance and accomplish our protection goals. Blindly demanding no commercial activities on federal lands or total passivity in Wilderness Areas immediately eliminates us from the conversation about how these areas will be managed. We must be willing to reason together with other interests, or we place ourselves in the same box as the right wing whackos.

Alaska Range Denali Wilderness, Alaska, USA

By Tim Aiken, age 18
Stanford, California, USA
http://www.timaiken.org

A time of hope:
I came away really uplifted and energized from my six days in Albuquerque. There are many challenges before us, to even retain what we have, but there is a great opportunity to recreate the lands protection movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. Climate change will eventually demand a great rethinking of how we interact with our natural world. That will be our opportunity. We must prepare and be ready to take that opportunity.
Larry Pennington, Oregon Chapter Chair


Vote Yes on Measure 88

October 7, 2014

The Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club has joined dozens of other organizations in endorsing a YES position on Measure 88.

Voting yes on Measure 88 will mean that residents of Oregon, regardless of their citizenship status, will have the option to obtain a driver’s card so they can legally drive to work, take a family member to the hospital, or attend a rally. And yes, even access trails and wilderness areas accessible only by vehicle. This will make the roads safer for all of us and allow people to contribute to their own well-being and the state’s economy.

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Measure 88 is also a step toward creating a more inclusive, democratic society, something the Sierra Club is deeply committed to. It’s even stated in the National Sierra Club Board policy: 11 million immigrants in our country ultimately need a pathway to citizenship so they can participate as full members of our democracy.

As an advocacy group, we value and depend on civic engagement from all communities. Undocumented immigrants are often most affected by environmental pollution and cannot speak out without fear of deportation. All people must have a voice if we are to achieve the conservation victories that protect our natural resources and help our communities thrive.

Learn more about Measure 88 and vote YES this November!

Not yet registered to vote? There’s still time! Register here.


50 “Cheers” to Wilderness photo event, a huge success!

September 15, 2014

Venue – check

Beer – check

Snacks – check

Music – check

Twenty photographs of wilderness areas in Oregon not yet protected – check

Displays and brochures from Oregon Wild, ONDA and Oregon Chapter Sierra Club High Desert

Committee – check

Then we waited for people to come. And they did come!

Keen_Photo_Contest

The event to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act hosted by KEEN at its flagship store in Portland, Oregon was a great success. About 300 people came to see the photo exhibit, enjoying the snacks, beer and music provided by KEEN. It was also a great time to catch up with friends and meet new ones. The stunning photographs of Oregon wilderness highlighted the many amazing and magnificent places in Oregon that need wilderness protection. Many people were also interested to hear the on-going efforts to protect these areas by the Sierra Club High Desert Committee, ONDA and Oregon Wild. Both ONDA and Sierra Club High Desert Committee have been focusing on protecting the Owyhee Canyonlands in the southeast Oregon. To find out more about the campaign, check out our brochure here: http://oregon.sierraclub.org/conserv/hidsrt/media/pdf/Owyhee%20Brochure.pdf

Take action! Visit these wilderness places and see for yourself these splendid wild places of Oregon!

Anniversary of the Wilderness Act hosted by KEEN at its flagship store


Oregon Legislative Update – Protecting Our Environment

March 23, 2009

A quick update from the Oregon Legislature. There’s only a little more than one month left for bills to pass out of their committee of origin before they either die or make it to the next level. We’ve got write ups with up-to-date information on some of the key bills we are tracking at http://www.oregon.sierraclub.org/tracker.

We have three ‘action alerts’ set up to make it easy for you to send emails to your legislator on these bills. The one on HB 2534 is brand new, in advance of a public hearing on Tuesday, March 24. The three action alerts are:

Cap and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Pollution – Supporter SB 80 and HB 2186

Stopping LNG terminals and pipelines – Support HB 2015

Pass the Oregon Environmental Quality Act – Yes on HB 2534

Please consider sending an email to your Rep. and the House Environment and Water Committee in support of HB 2534 in advance of the Tuesday hearing.


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