This is the story of amazing Sierra Club volunteer, Dave Stowe! And his journey to protect and keep Waldo Lake wild.

September 26, 2017

Dave Stowe

Dave Stowe grew up in Bend back when it was an eighth of its current population. There was no sprawl of development, be it extensive housing or tourism infrastructure. No, in those days where the city ended, the forest began.

Long before he was campaigning to get wilderness designations in Oregon, Dave was hiking the region when the Wilderness Act was first passed in 1964. He spent his childhood camping, paddling, hunting, fishing, and generally exploring the mountains, lakes, and desert surrounding his family home, spending countless hours and nights outside. In fact, the Stowes have lived in Central Oregon for generations, well prior to Oregon becoming a state, so Dave’s childhood was full of not only his own stories of adventure in the woods, but his grandparents’ memories of those same meaningful places, and their stories of their grandparents there before them.  

In the early 1990s while living in San Diego, Dave joined the Sierra Club as a volunteer, bringing with him his deeply-held passion for the environment and his inclination to find common ground.  Though he spent a number of years fighting land subdivision in Southern California, it was not until Dave came home to Bend that his work with the Club really clicked.

Dave returned to a Bend he didn’t recognize.  Development was rampant in his eyes, and the old, natural boundaries around town were getting overrun.  But after heading out to a roadless area a mile up in the Cascades where he hadn’t been for three decades, he had a renewed sense of connectedness.  That special place was Waldo Lake.

Thus, the Keep Waldo Wild campaign was born in 2011, largely out of Dave’s desire to protect the area in perpetuity.  But Waldo Lake was not simply another location to designate; it was a lake so unique and important that Dave knew it would quickly become a rallying point– plus the location of our ever-popular annual campout.  

That’s because, as Dave likes to explain, Waldo is perhaps the single purest lake in the world, an ultraoligotrophic (extremely low in nutrients) water body that collects its water from rainfall and snowmelt in the surrounding old-growth (which just so happens to be the state’s largest stand of ancient Mountain Hemlock) rather than from an inflowing river.  It’s hard to describe how clear Waldo’s waters are without seeing them in person, but two points lend a hand in visualization.  First, paddlers often comment that they feel they’re “flying” or “floating on air” due to the clarity of the water. Second, the underwater visibility, which can extend for over 150 feet, rivals or exceeds that of lab-distilled water.  

Dave Stowe

Waldo is home to an impressive array of wildlife too.  Pileated Woodpeckers, Spotted Owls, Sooty and Ruffed Grouse, and mid-sized carnivores such as Pine Martens and the rare Pacific Fisher can all be found in the area, while Wolverines are suspected of using the region as a migration corridor. Luckily, development is noticeably absent from Waldo.  As the second biggest lake in Oregon, it is possibly the only large lake left in the west that is still commercially undeveloped.

 While Waldo is surrounded on three of four sides by Wilderness area, the Southeast, although somewhat protected, lacks an equally permanent protection designation.  But Dave is working to change that.  After a push to successfully ban seaplanes and gas-powered motorboats on the lake (in which the state marine board received the highest volume of letters in its history), the next step was to get the remaining tract–around 75,000 acres of lakeshore land–designated as a Forest Conservation Area, a rare proposal for National Forests, but common for the Bureau of Land Management.  And while the old strategy for protection had revolved around litigation, Dave strived to reach out to diverse interest groups, befriending timber lobbyists and mountain bikers alike.  In this way, the new designation would preserve ultrarunners and mountain bikers’ current trail access in the areas that were most important to them, and set aside the remaining acreage as pure Wilderness, thus creating a win-win for all and satisfying the Club’s environmental goals, allowing Waldo Lake to remain perfectly clean and clear for future generations.

Ultimately though, this designation will require a bill in Congress, an unlikely proposition at the moment considering the state of politics in Washington, D.C.  In the meantime, the Keep Waldo Wild campaign will continue to work just as ever to protect and preserve this beautiful area of Oregon.  Your ongoing support is what makes this work possible and empowers volunteers like Dave!  


Fighting Fracked Gas, 334 Miles Away

September 19, 2017

By Ted Gleichman, Beyond Gas & Oil Team

Can Portland leadership help stop the largest, most dangerous, and most devastating fossil fuel scheme in state history?  

We are in “round three” of trying to stop Canadian energy speculator Veresen, Inc., from slashing a clearcut through 235 miles of public forest land, farms, ranches, homes, and communities for an explosive fracked-gas pipeline, Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline.  This 36-inch diameter monstrosity would carry Canadian fracked gas from the interstate gas pipeline hub near Malin to Coos Bay, on the coast.  (The Malin pipeline hub is 334 miles from the Oregon Chapter office in Portland.)

Nature's nurtured bounty in Southern Oregon-September 19 2017

Today’s organic harvest by an “Affected Landowner.”  Their land includes a sustainably-harvested woodlot that Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline would tear through.  Photo: Ted Gleichman

In Coos Bay, Veresen plans a massive industrial terminal to export this Canadian gas to Asia as LNG (liquefied natural gas): the Jordan Cove Energy Project.  Pacific Connector/Jordan Cove (PC/JC) would become the largest greenhouse gas polluter in Oregon.  Oregonians have been fighting to stop this for almost 13 years now.

This scheme is the Trump Regime’s top energy priority now, after Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline.  So how can we who live in Portland make a difference?

Easy! … and hard: basic grassroots organizing.  Here’s the deal: Two-thirds of the Democrats in the Oregon Legislature live in the Portland Metro area.  They need to be part of this fight, and you can help!

Oregon Chapter and Columbia Network are key leaders in developing a new multi-organization action team, Stop Fracked Gas/PDX.  We are asking Sierra Club Members and supporters to join us in educating and persuading our State Representatives and Senators on how they can make a difference.  Down the road, we expect to work with other stakeholders as well.

To join in, please email me for the simple details for the next step.

Portland Democrats must not support the Trump fossil fuels agenda !!!

Thank you!  Email: ted.gleichman@oregon.sierraclub.org

 

 


$100 Million: A first big step on the Elliott State Forest!

July 13, 2017

by Rhett Lawrence, Conservation Director

After many years of doubts about the future of the Elliott State Forest, we may finally have turned the corner on saving it, thanks to Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Tobias Read, and the Oregon Legislature. As you will read below, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Governor, the Treasurer, and the legislative leaders who came together to find a solution for the forest.

Like many of you, I breathed a sigh of relief in May when the State Land Board voted to keep the Elliott open and accessible to all. But even after that, we knew there was one further huge hurdle that we needed to get over in the 2017 session of the Oregon Legislature. In order to ensure a solution for the Elliott that works for everyone, we needed for legislators to approve the $100 million in bonding proposed by Governor Brown to withdraw the most sensitive areas of the Elliott from its obligations to generate revenue for the Common School Fund. And in an era of constrained budgets all around, we knew that getting $100 million was a tall order indeed. But wonder of wonders – the Legislature approved a bonding package in the waning days of the 2017 session that did just that!

Appropriating that $100 million was a huge accomplishment, no doubt, but in many ways, it is just a down payment on the future of the Elliott. Under Governor Brown’s plan, the bonding money will be used first to end the state’s obligation to excessively log the most sensitive areas of the forest to fund our schools. Next, the Governor’s plan would establish a “Habitat Conservation Plan” for much of the rest of the land, developed in partnership with tribal governments, conservation groups, and other community members. This would allow some logging to occur, while also protecting endangered and threatened species such as spotted owls and murrelets.

Treasurer Tobias Read has also presented a complementary plan that allows Oregon State University an option to buy the Elliott for the $121 million remaining after the $100 million bonding down payment in order to manage it as an experimental forest. And whether we now move forward with the Governor’s plan or the Treasurer’s plan – or some combination of the two – we at the Sierra Club also welcome the possibility for some of the lands to be returned to the Tribes who occupied the area long before it came into state or federal ownership. But by getting the bonding approved, we have taken a big first step toward preserving and protecting the Elliott for all of us – the hikers, hunters, anglers, bird watchers, and Oregon’s diverse communities.

In addition to finding the bonding money for the Elliott, the Oregon Legislature also passed Senate Bill 847, establishing a Trust Land Transfer program in Oregon for the first time. This program could help prevent future Elliott-like situations by providing a mechanism by which money could be appropriated over time to purchase encumbered lands. Washington State has had a similar program since 1989 and has moved nearly 120,000 acres of encumbered trust lands out of the trust to benefit school kids and the environment. We are excited by the passage of SB 847 in Oregon and we hope it can help us replicate many of the successes of the Washington program.

So, obviously, much more work remains to be done on the Elliott. But we should be very happy with the successes we did achieve in the 2017 legislative session – and in the years leading up to it, where we were always teetering on the edge of having the forest sold off to the highest bidder. We are thrilled that we have taken the first steps toward a solution that results in a forest that is preserved for all of us – the hikers, hunters, anglers, bird watchers, and others. And importantly, the Sierra Club is hopeful that Tribes can be a part of that solution and that past injustices regarding the seizure of their ancestral lands can be remedied in part.

No one believes that any of the rest of this will be easy, but we now at least have reason to believe that we are headed in the right direction and for that we should all be thankful.


A huge step forward on the Elliott State Forest

May 18, 2017

Many breathed a sigh of relief on May 9th as the State Land Board voted to keep the Elliott State Forest open and accessible to all. While there’s still much work to be done to craft an inclusive solution that preserves this ecologically unique and historically special place that connects us to our past and future – the Land Board has taken a major step in the right direction by reversing their decision to sell the forest.

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(Photo by Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands)

Located in the Southern Oregon Coast Range, the Elliott State Forest contains within its bounty over 82,000 acres of vital wildlife habitat and some of Oregon’s last remaining coastal old-growth. Approximately half of the forest is over a century old, and provides a home to threatened and endangered species, vital habitat to elk, black bear, northern spotted owls, and marbled murrelets. Among the ancestral homelands for Tribal Nations who have hunted, fished and lived among the region for many generations before the forest came into state ownership, this place has deep meaning – connecting communities to a rich past and vital future. It also contains some of the strongest wild salmon and steelhead runs left on the Oregon Coast, with biologists estimating that 22% of all wild Oregon coastal coho salmon originate in the Elliott.

The State Land Board – consisting of Governor Kate Brown, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson and state Treasurer Tobias Read – had proposed the sale of the Elliott’s obligation to the state’s Common School Fund for $221 million. But the Land Board rejected that approach on May 9 and voted to keep the Elliott in state ownership. We are appreciate the work that Governor Brown and Treasurer Read did, but more work lies ahead to come up with a solution that engages all stakeholders equally in finding a solution for the Elliott.

The biggest unanswered question is whether the Oregon Legislature can come up with the $100 million in bonding proposed by Governor Brown to buy out the most sensitive areas of the forest from the Common School Fund obligation. In addition to using that money to end the state’s obligation to tear down forests to fund our schools, the Governor’s plan would establish a “Habitat Conservation Plan” for much of the rest of the land. This would allow some logging to occur while also protecting endangered and threatened species such as spotted owls and murrelets. Treasurer Read presented a complementary plan that would allow Oregon State University an option to buy the Elliott for the $121 million remaining if the $100 million in bonding can be found.

In addition to working diligently in the Legislature to try to assure that the securing adequate bonding money, the Oregon Chapter will also be working to pass Senate Bill 847, which would establish a Trust Land Transfer program. Such a program could help provide part of a solution to the Elliott by providing a mechanism by which money could be appropriated over time to purchase encumbered lands.Salmon Elliott

We are hopeful that all of these answers can be found and that we can indeed come up with a solution that results in a forest that is preserved for all of us – the hikers, hunters, anglers, bird watchers, and Oregon’s diverse communities. And importantly, the Sierra Club believes that the State must engage Tribes as sovereign equals in crafting this solution – recognizing and addressing the past seizure of their ancestral lands.

No one believes that any of this will be easy, but we now at least have reason to believe that we are headed in the right direction and for that we should all be thankful.

 


Update: Six weeks into the 2017 Oregon Legislative session

March 22, 2017

By Rhett Lawrence, Conservation Director

As predicted in last month’s legislative preview, it’s been a challenging session in the 2017 Oregon Legislature. After several sessions with some real environmental accomplishments (but also partisan divisiveness), we knew we would have a hard slog in making much progress in 2017. So things have gone pretty much as expected so far, and here are some updates on a few of the issues we’re working on.

For the past several sessions, we have been a part of a coalition working to try to put a price on carbon in Oregon. We have gone through various iterations of “cap and trade” and “cap and delegate” bills and have had some good hearings and debates in the legislature. This year the Oregon Chapter’s top legislative priority has been to pass a “Clean Energy Jobs bill.” Right now, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the House Energy and Environment Committee are jointly looking at what might be the best solution for Oregon to create clean energy jobs and hold polluters accountable. The primary contenders so far are Senate Bill 557 and Senate Bill 748, and the committees are holding weekly workgroup meetings to investigate the policies reflected in those bills. You can help move them forward by contacting your legislator and tell them it’s time to act on greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.

Another climate policy we’ve been spending some time on is an idea called the “Climate Test.” In essence, it is a scaled-down version of a State Environmental Policy Act that would apply to fossil fuel infrastructure projects in Oregon. Like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), it would require cross-agency communications to consider the impacts of proposed fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Such proposed projects would also be subject to an environmental impact statement (EIS) with full lifecycle accounting of the project’s greenhouse gas emissions, coupled with an economic analysis that will show whether a project is viable in a world where climate goals are met. We have bills in both chambers – House Bill 3343 and Senate Bill 1007 – and we hope to be having a hearing on them in early April.

Our other top priority, along with the Clean Energy Jobs bill, will be to pass legislation that can help to solve the ongoing conundrum with the Elliott State Forest. As many of you know, the Elliott has been the subject of much debate recently, as the State Land Board tries to dispose of it in order to satisfy its obligations to the Common School Fund. Senate Bill 847 – a Trust Lands Transfer bill similar to what we worked on in the 2015 session – could be a part of that solution. That bill had its first hearing on March 20 and we are hopeful that it will move forward.

We are also working on a package of bills to address the critical issue of oil trains in our state. House Bill 2131 will help to improve safety and cleanup standards for the trains that are coming through Oregon. House Bill 3344 will make it more difficult to site oil train terminals here. Both bills had their initial public hearings in mid-March and we are awaiting further action on them soon.

A bill to limit the impacts of suction dredge mining on our state’s waters is making progress in the legislature. Senate Bill 3 is moving through the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee now and we are confident that it will have real benefits to salmon habitat in Oregon.

Another bill of interest is House Bill 2711, which would impose a 10-year moratorium on oil and gas fracking in Oregon. There is currently no fracking happening in Oregon and we’d like to keep it that way, so we’re pushing to move that bill forward in the House Energy and Environment committee.

Finally, on proactive legislation, we are supporting Senate Bill 1008, which will create more stringent standards for diesel emissions in Oregon. The bill had a public hearing in early March and we are monitoring its progress closely. In addition to getting dirty diesel out of our air, it will also pave the way for Oregon to receive $68 million in Volkswagen settlement money to fund clean air work in our state.

One bright note from the session is that we have had to play less defense and fight off fewer bad bills than we often have to do. There have been attempts to roll back public lands protections and to take aim at wolves and cougars. But for the most part, the same dynamic that is keeping some “controversial” bills that we like from getting much traction is also keeping the bad bills at bay!

So, as expected, the 2017 session has had both hazards and opportunities, and we’re trying to make the best of the latter while avoiding the former to the extent we can. As always, our success depends largely on you, so keep calling, writing, and e-mailing your legislators and making a difference for Oregon!


Tell State Lawmakers: Cancel the Elliot State Forest Sale

December 6, 2016

By Mike Allen

In one week the State Land Board will vote on whether to sell the oldest state forest in Oregon. The Elliott State Forest near Coos bay is home to several threatened or endangered species including Coho salmon, Pacific lamprey, spotted owl, and the vanishing marbeled murrelet. The murrelet nests high in large trees, and its decline is associated with old forest logging.

The State of Oregon has been frittering away the Elliott for years, selling pieces of it off to timber interests who have gone on to cut off public access and log some massive old trees. Just ten years ago it was 10,000 acres larger. Last year the Land Board decided to put the remaining 83,000 acres up for sale. The asking price of $220.8 million drew exactly one bid.

marbled-murrelet

The Terms of the Elliott Sale Shortchange Oregonian’s Future

Although the deal requires that the purchaser set aside 25% of the land for conservation, it does not specify which part of the land must be set aside. Nearly half of the Elliott is forest nearly 150 years old, with many older trees mixed in. Older trees, which are more economically valuable, could be harvested and younger stands allowed to age.

Only 50% of the land is required to be kept open to the public, and access could involve fees and other restrictions.

The harvest would only be required to produce forty new jobs over the next ten years.

Oregon Could do Better with the Elliott

Meanwhile, if no further harvests were to occur in the Elliott, it would be capable of storing about two thirds of the total carbon output of the state of Oregon, according to a 2010 analysis by ecotrust. This is just one of the many benefits with indirect but real economic impact that isn’t fully appreciated by the state’s analysis.

The Elliott is rugged terrain, with limited access. It has no trails and no official campgrounds. But for the intrepid and adventurous it holds big rewards: massive old growth trees, pristine creeks teaming with fish, deer and elk and the rarest of Western Oregon species. This is our last chance: if the Elliott is sold we will never get it back, and it will never be the same. Call Governor Brown, Secretary Atkins, and Treasurer Wheeler and tell them to save the save the Elliot, a priceless resource for all Oregonians.

Take Action to Save the Elliot State Forest:

Gov. Kate Brown – (503) 378-4582
Ted Wheeler – (503) 378-4329
Jeanne Atkins – (503) 986-1523

The Sierra Club Oregon Chapter will participate in a rally at the Keizer Civic Center at 9 am on December 13th to let lawmakers know how Oregonians feel about losing their wilderness heritage to private interests.  Details HERE!

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Rally for the Elliott State Forest

December 2, 2016

This is it! The Oregon Department of State Lands has received a bid that would see the Elliott State Forest sold to a private timber company and heavily logged. Our elected leaders, including Governor Kate Brown, Treasurer Ted Wheeler, and Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins have the opportunity to stop the privatization process and Save the Elliott.

Join public lands advocates from across Oregon for a rally before the State Land Board Meeting where our leaders could decide protect this public treasure. Plan to stick around and attend the meeting – sign up to testify to make sure your voice is heard!

CARPOOL INFORMATION:

From Eugene you can meet the Many Rivers Group at 7:45 near the bike bridge behind the Valley River Center (293 Valley River Center).

From Portland you can meet at 7:45 at Holladay City Park (NE 11th Ave). RSVP to staylor@audubonportland.org or go here: https://www.groupcarpool.com/t/v5hoju.

If you’d like to carpool from Coos Bay area please add yourself to this rideshare board: https://www.groupcarpool.com/t/6ua89y, or email savetheelliott@gmail.com.

 

More carpool info coming soon.

Wear green. Bring banners and signs. Save the Elliott!

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