Solar Inclusion Project

October 26, 2016

The Marys Peak Group (MPG) has developed a project to support the Sierra Club’s efforts to increase the use of solar power and to become more inclusive of diverse communities. Up to this point, the marketing target and users of solar energy have primarily been restricted to the upper economic classes of our society.

The MPG has long taken the position of “action over words” and “put our money where our mouth is.”  In an effort to broaden the usage of solar power throughout the economic spectrum, the MPG initiated and collaborated with Benton Habitat for Humanity, Seeds for the Sol and Abundant Solar, LLC to initiate the Solar Inclusion Project (SIP).

SIP has 3 goals:

  1. Inclusion and Independence – Provide solar energy systems on Benton Habitat for Humanity homes to include a wider economic diversity of families into the solar energy revolution and to provide a greater opportunity for the recipient families to experience economic independence.
  2. Collaboration – Create a unique collaboration of a social services organization, environmental non-profit, a funding organization and a for-profit business to help resolve some fundamental community problems.
  3. Model Project – Create a project model and process that can be used at the community, state or national levels by both the Sierra Club and Habitat for Humanity organizations.

The MPG provided $6,500 to kick-start and help fund this project. Seeds for the Sol is providing creative funding sources for the remaining funds. Abundant Solar is installing the systems below the profit threshold.

The kick-off ceremony on September 20, 2016 included the contribution of the funding by the MPG to Benton Habitat for Humanity, a signing of the commitment by the four member organizations,  plus speeches by the four organizations, including Oregon Chapter Executive Director Erica Stock and the Director of the Oregon Habitat for Humanity.

In addition to providing solar energy to low-income housing families, the MPG has also received very positive publicity and recognition.

In very quick fashion, all necessary funds and donations were raised and as a result of the publicity. Another donor has also stepped forward to fund the 3rd Habitat Home solar installation. The MPG is now seeking additional community benefactors.

The first project will be the installation of solar systems on three Benton Habitat for Humanity homes in Corvallis in the first half of November 2016.

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This collaboration is the first collaboration of its kind locally among environmental, social services, financial and business organizations. Karen Rockwell, the executive director of Benton Habitat said of the venture that, “I couldn’t be more excited about the Sierra Club’s decision to select Benton Habitat for Humanity to partner with on this project. Providing these funds allows us to provide Habitat homeowners with increased affordability and environmental sustainability. Not only will the cost of power to the families be substantially reduced, the project also goes hand-in-hand with our community’s sustainability goals!”

The MPG has met the first two parts of our SIP mission – inclusion and collaboration. In an effort to meet the third mission point – to model – the MPG encourages other Sierra Club groups to consider similar Environmental/Social/Financial/Business collaborations. Interested groups can contact MPG ExCom Chair Robert White at lwii47@gmail.com for further information.


New Faces!

September 28, 2016
We are thrilled to announce two new recent hires within the Oregon Chapter of Sierra Club!


magdaMagda Mendez-Martinez  joins us as our new Outreach and Development Coordinator.  In her new role, Magda will be to coordinating and assisting with with chapter fundraising campaigns, membership and volunteer engagement, strategic communications and marketing efforts, as well as capacity building projects to help increase the effectiveness of the Oregon Chapter.
Originally hailing from Mexico City and having lived in Melbourne, Australia for 3 years studying environmental policy and communications, Magda brings cultural competency and a global prospective to Sierra Club. She is fully fluent in English and Spanish, and her experience includes managing an innovation workshop to enhance sustainable practices in Melbourne. She is passionate about climate change and has also previously worked in marketing and communications within the public and private sector performing strategic planning, community and stakeholders engagement, database management and public relations tactics. She most recently interned at Oregon Environmental Council, Living Cully “Verde”, and The United Nations Environmental Programme in New York supporting environmental policy analysis, research, and translation.
Magda can be reached at magda.mendez@sierraclub.org

alexMany  already know Alex Harris, our new Biomass Organizer. Alex joined the Sierra Club in 2015 to help fight against the wave of fossil fuel infrastructure projects proposed in the Northwest. Since joining the Club he has organized against oil, coal, and methanol proposals in Washington State and helped mobilize resistance to the largest free trade agreement in history: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In his new role, Alex will be working as part of our team to ensure that dirty sources of energy do not replace retired fossil fuel infrastructure, such as coal plants. Specifically, Alex is working to close a loophole currently proposed in Congress that classifies all biomass as carbon neutral, which could have dangerous implications for climate change, forest management, and public health.
Please feel free to get in touch with Alex if you would like to learn more about biomass or if you’d like to get more involved on biomass issues. Alex can be reached at alex.harris@sierraclub.org
We couldn’t be more excited for Magda and Alex to join our team! Please feel free to reach out and welcome them to the Sierra Club.

Rock Against the TPP Coming to Portland!

August 5, 2016
 By Alexander Harris
Rock Against the TPP - POSTER JPEG
This summer, the Sierra Club is working with the OR Fair Trade Campaign and over 40 labor and environmental groups to plan Oregon’s largest anti-Trans-Pacific Partnership event ever! On August 20, over a thousand Oregonians will come together for Rock Against the TPP, a nationwide concert tour meant to raise awareness of the threats of the TPP.
The weekend of action will begin with a community workshop on Saturday afternoon which will drill into the the fossil fuel implications of free trade. After the Fossil Fuels and Trade workshop we will march along the park blocks, stopping every few blocks for some creative street theater. We will then proceed to follow our marching band to director park, where there will be a free concert and rally against the TPP! The rock tour’s stop in Portland will feature trade-themed carnival games, a beer garden, food carts, photo petitions, and more. Get your free tickets today!
The TPP poses many threats to our climate by extending broad new rights to fossil fuel corporations that allow them to challenge public interest regulations that hinder their profits. For example, just over a month ago, the corporation behind the Keystone XL pipeline, TransCanada, used their power under NAFTA to sue the US government for denying their project. The company contends that Obama’s decision did not conform to their expectation, and therefore TransCanada is suing the US for $15 billion to cover what they believe they would have earned if the project had gone through. Obama cited climate change when he denied this massive infrastructure project, which goes to show that these corporate rights in NAFTA and the TPP will discourage climate leadership at a time when it is needed most!
For that reason the Sierra Club is determined to stop the TPP from coming up for a vote in Congress this fall. There are only a handful of Democrats throughout the entire country that might vote for the TPP during the Lame Duck session and several of them are from Oregon (Blumenauer, Bonamici, and Schrader)! This means we have a major opportunity (and responsibility) to pressure our Rep’s and stop the TPP from coming to a vote.
Come show your support for trade justice on August 20!
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Volunteer Spotlight: Dian Odell

March 25, 2016

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Dian Odell has been volunteering with the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club since August 2014. She comes in twice a week to help out in the office. “Usually entry of donations and event attendance into Helen (the central Sierra Club database), preparing for mailings, research, procedure documentation. But also computer support, ‘cleaning’, optimizing, [and] upgrading,” Dian said.

When she saw a posting for the Sierra Club on a local volunteering website, she knew it would be a good fit for her. “I certainly support the work of the Sierra Club, and the work they wanted done was certainly within my skill set,” Dian said.

As a retiree, Dian enjoys having a schedule and a routine, and maintaining structure in her days. “My objectives are to be useful, learn new things, and work with nice people,” Dian said. “I certainly have all those working with Hilary and the others at the Ankeny office.”

Dian grew up in Oregon, attending primary school in La Grande. “[It was a] small town, in the 1950’s—idyllic for kids,” Dian said. In middle school she moved to Portland and, aside from four years of college in California, and two years of the Peace Corps in South Korea, she’s been a Portlander ever since.

Dian keeps active in her daily life; she takes swimming and yoga classes; she’s an usher for Portland’5 and Portland Center Stage; and she spends ample time with her friends and grandchildren. These days she said she does “more ‘walking’ instead of ‘hiking’”, but she still loves being outdoors. She enjoys traveling to Central Oregon “for the different weather and smells there”, to the mountains for downhill skiing, and to the Columbia and Willamette for water skiing and sailing.

Each week Dian spends 10-12 hours donating her time and talents to the Sierra Club. Volunteers like her breathe life into the Sierra Club and make our accomplishments possible. Thank you for your dedication to the environment, Dian!

 

 

 

 

 


Homesteader: The Precipice of a Huge Loss

January 13, 2016

Over 1600 Oregonians voiced their disapproval of clearcutting old growth as part of the Homesteader timber sale in the Clatsop State Forest. It is obvious that the loss of trees that survived the Tillamook Burn and a century of logging would be devastating, but is important to get an up-close view of what we lose along with the huge, old trees.

Complex branch structure on old doug firs provide red tree vole habitat.

Complex branch structure on old doug firs provide red tree vole habitat (photo by Trygve Steen).

Along with potential Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet habitat, the giant Douglas-firs in Homesteader have complex branch structures that provide habitat for red tree voles and are unique to old growth trees. Private and state forest logging has fragmented potential old growth tree vole habitat on Oregon’s north coast. These elusive rodents are a favored food for spotted owls and require mature conifer forests to survive. The State of Oregon lists the red tree vole as a sensitive-vulnerable species in the Coast Range Ecoregion and  the North Oregon Coast “distinct population segment” is a candidate for federal Endangered Species Act protection. (US Fish & Wildlife Service)

Northwestern Salamander found in area 2 of Homesteader

Northwestern Salamander found in area 2 of Homesteader (photo by Trygve Steen)

 

 

This Northwestern Salamander (right) lives in area 2 of Homesteader. Clearcutting renders habitat unsuitable for this species, and a forest buffer of 200–250 m surrounding breeding sites may preserve optimal environmental conditions for local populations. (Petranka, JW 1998 “Salamanders of the United States and Canada”)

 

 

 

 

 

Chaenotheca ferruginea  and Chaenotheca chrysocephela are rare lichen species found in area 2 of Homesteader. If found on Forest Service land, these sensitive lichens would require a buffer to protect them from impact. There are likely other rare lichens in the area.

Chaenotheca ferruginea (Orange crust under a black pin) confidently identified in are 2 of Homeaster

Chaenotheca ferruginea (Orange crust under a black pin) confidently identified in area 2 of Homesteader (photo by Trygve Steen)

Chaenotheca chrysocephela (Yellow crust under pin with light line under spore mass) Identification could be more certain with lab study

Chaenotheca chrysocephela (Yellow crust under pin with light line under spore mass) Identification could be more certain with lab study (photo by Trygve Steen)

These are just a few of the rare, sensitive, and important life forms that currently exist in the Homesteader area. If the Homesteader clearcuts move forward, these will likely all be wiped out and it will take at least a century to recover what is lost. This critical and rare refuge for so many species may, in fact, never recover. There is almost no old growth habitat left on Oregon’s north coast and the only real opportunity for conservation is on public lands. Special places like the old growth forest of Homesteader deserve long term protection, not to be wiped out for short-term profit.
This large, old western redcedar may be logged as part of the Homesteader clearcuts.

This large, old western redcedar may be logged as part of the Homesteader clearcuts.


A robust conversation at the Owyhee Town Hall in Adrian, Oregon

November 9, 2015

Rafts on Owyhee River, Photo Credit: Leon Werdinger

By Borden Beck, Oregon Chapter High Desert Committee

 

On October 29, I attended a Town Hall meeting in the small town of Adrian, Oregon, to share opinions and information about protecting the Owyhee Canyonlands. Adrian is the last small community before heading south into the vast expanse of the so far relatively undeveloped landscape that makes up the Owyhee. The meeting had been organized by state Rep. Cliff Bentz and was attended by about 500 people, including a slate of local officials and representatives from both Sen. Wyden’s and Rep Walden’s office.

While the majority of the attendees were undoubtedly locals from Malheur County, a good number of people also came from Bend, Boise, and even Portland, like me. I came as an individual, but also as one participating with the Sierra Club in the Owyhee Coalition, a group of nearly a dozen environmental and recreational organizations spearheading the effort to gain permanent protection for Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands.

The Owyhee Coalition has come up with a proposal to protect up to 2.5 million acres of this landscape with a mixture of Wilderness and National Conservation Area designations (see map of the proposal here). We are proposing this to be a legislated action, although similar protections could be achieved through a National Monument proclamation by President Obama’s administration in the event of congressional inaction.

The Owyhee region is perhaps the largest unroaded and undeveloped – and yet still unprotected – landscape in the lower 48 states and contains stunning geological formations, native cultural resources, critical wildlife habit, and unsurpassed recreation opportunities. It is also a long way from the rest of Oregon.

Adrian town hall; Photo Credit: Borden Beck

Adrian town hall; Photo Credit: Borden Beck

The Town Hall began with officials sharing their views briefly, and then Brent Fenty from ONDA (Oregon Natural Desert Association) presented the bones of the wilderness/NCA proposal that the Coalition has put forth. In addition to sharing reasons for protecting the landscape such as the very real threat of oil and gas exploration, he concisely tried to dispel misinformation about the proposal such as the notion of imagined road closures and grazing restrictions. The Coalition presentation was followed by a long session of brief public comments alternating between opponents and proponents of additional protection.

Those opposed to protection in general could be said to view the land as best protected by people living in the area – the “locals” – and that the region does not need any additional protection or government interference. They also are very fearful that some protected status will change their lifestyle and livelihood by restricting use, or “locking it up,” as they like to say.

Those in favor shared the benefits to some form of protection, such as the economic boost that increased recreation will provide (and has provided elsewhere with protective status), and of course we shared concerns about mining and increased off road vehicle use. We also shared the notion that these are in fact public lands that belong to everyone, not just the local community. I live in Oregon. I have all my life. I care deeply about the Owyhee region and am in love with it too. I deserve a say in how it is managed.

West Little Owyhee River Canyon; Photo Credit: Tim Neville

West Little Owyhee River Canyon; Photo Credit: Tim Neville

In general it is fair to say that this issue highlights the urban/rural divide we so often encounter in our state and elsewhere. It also highlights differing perceptions as to who should be allowed to make decisions about public lands management. And last, it brings out the deep disdain for the federal government that exists in some communities. There is clearly a lack of trust by local residents for both the federal government, as well as environmental organizations and those of us who advocate from Portland or Bend.

Where this lack of trust originates is complicated, but it does rest both in different values and experience, as well as misinformation spouted and believed. To go forth with this proposal, we will need to find a way encourage dialogue with local officials and residents who have been reluctant to do so, to engage in a process that will find some common or negotiated ground, something other than an all or none attitude. I stumbled into being the last person in favor to get called to speak and that was my attempted message – that we need to work together and that those unequivocally opposed to any form of protection will be left out of the conversation.

You can be part of this process by stepping up to take the time and call our U.S. Senators and ask him to take leadership to provide permanent protection for our Owyhee Canyonlands. We (the Owyhee Coalition) believe the time is NOW to encourage our senior Senator to act. Let him know you care enough to take action and that you believe we all have a say in how our public lands are managed. This landscape of the Owyhee deserves protection for future generations. Click here for our Senators’ phone contacts and a few talking points.

 The next day, Oregon Chapter Conservation Director Rhett Lawrence and I were able to accompany some of the Owyhee Coalition members for a short visit to Leslie Gulch in the Owyhee country to unwind (see photo below). If you have not been there, put it on your bucket list!

Owyhee Coalition at Leslie Gulch; Photo Credit: Borden Beck

Owyhee Coalition at Leslie Gulch; Photo Credit: Borden Beck


Clearcut 70% of our State Forests? Not the best idea!

October 29, 2015

On October 19th, a subcommittee of the Board of Forestry met to discuss alternative management plans for the Tillamook & Clatsop state forests.  Any new plan needs to improve conservation AND make the Department of Forestry financially viable. This ongoing process has been dominated by a timber industry proposal to manage the forest as two zones: 70% for industrial clearcutting and 30% for conservation.

The Board directed the Department to model this proposal and the results are…not good.

Conservation: Under the current plan, 51% of the forest is open to clearcutting, 18% is thinned to create complex forest habitat, roughly 27% is not logged because it buffers streams, provides habitat to endangered species, or is too steep. The remaining 4% is roads, campgrounds, rock quarries, and power-line right-of-ways.

Photo by Francis Eatherington

Industrial Timber Land (photo by Francis Eatherington)

The new model shows 69% of the forest open to private industrial style clearcutting, and 27% of the forest protected. This alone is a drastic reduction in conservation acres. On top of that, the private industrial model would have very negative impacts on habitat compared to the current plan, which leaves more standing live trees, standing dead trees, and downed wood. The industrial model also involves more aerial pesticide application.

See what the model looks like on the Tillamook district and on the Clatsop forest (Astoria district).


Financial Viability: 
It turns out that when you liquidate your asset by intensive clearcutting, the returns don’t last long. The model showed that the plan would pay for itself for about 25 years, after which costs far outpace revenue, leaving the Department worse off than it is now.Revenue vs. Costs

There are additional concerns. Based on district level groundtruthing, Department staff hinted that implementing this plan would result in less harvest than predicted. Moreover, there is a likelihood that counties and forest district would face drastic boom/bust cycles rather than steady, predictable income.

What’s next? Some timber industry modeling experts hope that there is more inventory than is currently assumed and that the forest will grow faster in the future with better stocks of wood. However, there is also reason to be pessimistic as the recent modeling didn’t account for likely forest disturbances such as wind storms or floods.

The Department is moving forward to refine their model, but so far it seems that a 70/30 fails to improve financial viability and drastically reduces conservation on our state forests.

Wilson River 2

#salmon, #orforest, #steelhead, #Tillamook, #Clatsop, #logging, #clearcut