Oregon Chapter Sierra Club members, Jill Workman and Chris Smith recently returned from Washington D.C. where they were lobbying Oregon’s delegates on behalf of the Club in support of a good, clean package of lands bills during the 113th Congress. Despite an extraordinarily challenging partisan environment in the Capitol, Great Outdoors America Week served as a positive context for a wide variety of constituents to impress upon their representatives the importance for wildlands across our country. Along with advocating for the creation and expansion of wilderness areas in Oregon and beyond, we also pushed for the Healthy Kids Outdoor Act, a bill that would help improve access and opportunities for kids to get into green spaces. This is part of a broader effort to kick nature-deficit disorder to the curb as kids are spending less and less time outside.
We were met with plenty of pessimism and frustration from our Oregon delegates, many of whom would like to see good lands bills go through this congress. Despite this frustration, there were glimmers of optimism that the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness Act and the Oregon Caves Revitalization Act might see some progress. We were also heartened to hear that some of our delegates shared the Club’s concern about bad lands bills such as the Sealaska and Resolution Copper, which would greatly damage America’s public landscape.
In the end, this work was well worth it in spite of the difficult politics reigning on Capitol Hill. The powerful message that individual citizens can send to their local DC delegates by paying them a visit is crucial as we fight for our environment and, though national-level politics is rife with deadlock and partisanship, there are still consistent environmental champions like Senator Jeff Merkley, who was kind enough to pose for a picture.