Hood River County Votes Against Nestlé!

May 21, 2016

 

KeepNestleOutOfTheGorgeCoalition

The Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge Coalition celebrates the passage of Ballot Measure 14-55

by Francesca Varela

On Tuesday, the people of Hood River County voted to block Nestlé from building a water-bottling plant near the city of Cascade Locks. Ballot Measure 14-55—a countywide ban on commercial bottled-water facilities—passed easily, and has set an important precedent, not only for Oregon, but for the rest of the country.

Massive corporations like Nestlé are not invulnerable; they can be challenged by citizens, by people. Environmental groups like the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, and BARK joined with the Alliance for Democracy, AFSCME, and several others to create the Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge Coalition, which has led the effort against Nestlé. It’s been a long fight, one spanning almost eight years, but well worth the effort.

Nestlé’s plan was to bottle 100 million gallons annually from state-owned Oxbow Springs. A public resource turned into a commodity; fresh, wild spring water entrapped on grocery store shelves, branded as Arrowhead and Pure Life, and sold at a steep profit. Shipping trucks would have rumbled continuously through the Gorge, carrying away the water that once wove through its hills. In a time of increasing droughts, this just didn’t seem right. Why should we have our own water sold back to us?

Climate change is making droughts more common throughout the Pacific Northwest, and, ironically, the bottled water industry is contributing to the situation; just think of the shipping, the energy intensive factories, and the bottles themselves, which are made of petroleum-based plastic. These bottles, once empty, usually end up in our oceans, or our rivers, until they’re eaten by aquatic life and leach plastic chemicals into all layers of the food web, or lie tangled in a mass of floating garbage for millennia.

Farmers, orchardists, fishermen, and Native peoples from varied backgrounds supported the measure, citing their worries about water depletion and the chance that, if Nestlé’s plant was built, other companies might follow their lead, bottling up the cold, clean water needed for agriculture, salmon, and life in Hood River County.

With their supposed omnipotence, multi-national corporations like Nestlé are difficult foes to face, but, as we’ve seen, they’re far from unbeatable. Rather than Oregon being the first state to transfer state-owned water rights to a private entity, we’re the first to house a county ban on water bottling. This is thanks in part to the efforts of Sierra Club members Joy Keen and Nancy Hatch, and their work with the Keep Nestlé Out of the Gorge Coalition. They kept Nestlé at bay long enough that, despite spending $105,000 to defeat the measure, citizen voices have still been heard, saying that water is life— and our lives are not for sale.


Join us in Salem on May 23 to speak out for the Owyhee!

May 18, 2016

The Owyhee needs you NOW.

South Fork Owyhee (photo credit: Chad Case)

South Fork Owyhee (photo credit: Chad Case)

Will you join us in Salem on Monday, May 23, to ensure our Oregon lawmakers know Oregonians want the Owyhee Canyonlands protected?

The House Rural Communities, Land Use, and Water Committee will meet to discuss permanent protection for the Owyhee. A group opposing protection will be there in force, so it’s critical that supporters like you show our leaders how much you care about protecting the Owyhee.

We’ll meet at Oregon Capitol Building’s main entrance (900 Court St NE, Salem, OR 97301) at 8 a.m. on Monday, May 23. See map.

Schedule
8 a.m. Arrive at Capitol
8:30 a.m. Committee session starts
Noon: Owyhee Rally!
1:30 p.m. Grab a slice of pizza and head for the bus or your car to travel home!

Getting There
Drive yourself: Arrive at Capitol Building’s main entrance (900 Court St NE, Salem, OR 97301) at 8 a.m. Get parking information here.

Get on the bus: We’ll have coffee and pastries for early risers!

 

  • Bend Bus: Departs Oregon Natural Desert Association’s office (50 SW Bond St. Ste #4, Bend, OR 97702) at 5 a.m. Monday. Returns by 4:30 p.m.

 

What to bring
Please wear bright blue to show you’re an Oregonian who is #WildForTheOwyhee! We’ll have buttons and posters for everyone. Birder? Kayaker? Backpacker? Bring the gear you love to use in the Owyhee. And bring family and friends!

RSVP!
Let us know you can make it AND if you’ll be hopping on the Portland or Bend bus. RSVP here by noon on May 20.

Thank you for being a strong voice for the wildlife, lands and waters of the Owyhee. Together, we’ll ensure this Oregon treasure is protected, forever!

P.S. Can’t make it? Please send an email telling the House Committee that you love the Owyhee and want to see it protected, now! Send your note to hrcluw.exhibits@state.or.us


Volunteer Spotlight: Dian Odell

March 25, 2016

SI Exif

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!

 

 

 

 

 


2016 Legislative Wrap-up: Victory on Coal and Clean Energy!

March 17, 2016

Oregon capitol

It was a whirlwind session of the Oregon Legislature for 4 weeks of February (and 3 days of March). Sierra Club staff worked hard to track bills, provide testimony, and meet with legislators in Salem to advocate for renewable energy, wildlife protection, our state forests, and more. And though there were some real disappointments out of the session, passing the biggest climate legislation in Oregon in many years was a very significant victory!

It was a session marked by bitter partisanship on many fronts, underscored by parliamentary brinksmanship and some very long floor sessions. Many important bills got mired in the legislative quicksand and we were lucky to have emerged with something as important (and bipartisan!) as our Clean Energy and Coal Transition bill, given those circumstances. Clearly, it was your e-mails and phone calls that made the difference!

Here are some of the highlights of the 2016 short session:

  • Clean Energy and Coal Transition Plan: If you’ve paid any attention at all to the news recently, you’ve likely heard the inspiring news about the passage and signing of Senate Bill 1547, the Clean Energy and Coal Transition Bill. When Governor Kate Brown put her pen to this landmark legislation on March 11, it set Oregon on a path to eliminate its use of coal power by 2035 and double the amount of clean, renewable energy serving Oregonians to 50 percent by 2040.

The Clean Energy and Coal Transition plan was crafted by bringing diverse parties to the table, including Oregon’s two largest electric utilities, energy industry and business groups, and advocacy and community organizations. Chapter staff worked closely with the national Beyond Coal Campaign on this critical legislation. With it, Oregon has charted a bold course for the nation as we accelerate the transition away from dirty fuels of the past. Sierra Club members and supporters should be very proud of the role we all played in this victory!

  • Healthy Climate Act: Unfortunately, we did not see similar success with our other climate priority for the 2016 session. Senate Bill 1574, the Healthy Climate Act, would have held big polluters accountable for the cost of what they are dumping into our air and water by instituting a “cap and invest” program in Oregon. Similar to the program put in place by AB 32 in California, the bill would have put a cap on carbon emissions and helped to achieve Oregon’s goal to reduce pollution while creating incentives to accelerate the transition to a   clean energy economy. And though we failed to move the legislation this year, our coalition fully intends to be back in 2017, more motivated than ever to continue this critical work!
  • Solar energy: The Clean Energy and Coal Transition bill included some important provisions to help create a “community solar” program for Oregon and ensure that at least 10% of the program’s capacity be provided to low-income customers. We also worked to help pass House Bill 4037, which will dramatically increase the amount of solar energy being produced in Oregon by helping to ensure that 16 to 18 new large-scale solar projects will be built in Oregon over the next two years. In addition to the clear carbon reduction benefits of these large solar projects, they will also create hundreds of jobs and pour millions of property tax dollars into the coffers of rural Oregon communities that need it the most.
  • Defending Wildlife: Unfortunately, we did not do so well on wildlife bills in the 2016 session. On the bright side, for once we did not have to contend with any bills related to the hunting of cougars, and we did see the passage of House Bill 4046, which increased penalties for wildlife poaching.

However, one very disheartening loss was the passage and signing of House Bill 4040. Though this legislation was framed by its proponents as a mere “ratification” of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission’s decision to remove gray wolves from the state’s endangered species list, the effects of the bill were much more sinister. In addition to setting a bad precedent for the legislature to step in and review scientific decisions of administrative agencies, the bill was also revealed to be a blatant attempt to moot out a lawsuit that had been filed by several groups that disputed the scientific basis of the Commission’s delisting decision. Despite the best efforts of the conservation community, the bill passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor on March 15.

  • Suction Dredge Mining: One other disappointment from the session was the failure to pass Senate Bill 1530, which would have taken steps to improve the regulation of suction dredge mining in our state. Though the bill appeared to have had the votes to pass, it unfortunately got caught up in the partisan wrangling and bill trading at the end of the session and it died without a floor vote. Some questionable tactics by the opponents of the bill added to the frustration over failing to pass it and led to some strong statements of disappointment by the bill’s lead sponsor on the Senate floor. Again, it was a discouraging end to some common-sense legislation, but we hope to work with partners to bring back similar legislation in the 2017 session.

So that’s a wrap on the 2016 session! Many thanks to our members for all of their e-mails and phone calls to legislators; we could not have passed the historic Clean Energy and Coal Transition bill without you! Relish that victory, folks, and here’s to even more successes in 2017!


On the Linn County Lawsuit

February 17, 2016

You know when you drive to the coast, like out to Cannon Beach or Tillamook, and you pass by those clear-cuts? There’s a thin layer of trees in front of them—a disguise of sorts—but if you look past them, through those dark branches, you can see whole fields of dry, broken, dirt, painfully bright and empty in the scattered sunlight. This is instantly and intrinsically a sad thing to see. I always wonder what it looked like before. What was it like, back when the fir trees rose toward the sky? I wished I could gaze up into the plush arms of those hemlock and spruce as they braided the sunlight between each frond. And where were the deer, and the owls, and all the others who were displaced?

DBH Measuring

Measuring old trees in the Clatsop State Forest – photo by Trygve Steen

Logging—especially in its most intense, disruptive form—contributes to climate change, causes erosion, destroys habitat, dirties water sources, and detracts from the aesthetic and recreational value of our forests. Unfortunately, there are those who nonetheless want more—more timber harvesting, more clear-cutting, more revenue. And I’m not just talking about logging companies; one Oregon county is taking legal action to increase logging on state forests.

On January 13th, Linn County threatened to sue the State of Oregon for 1.4 billion dollars. Linn County believes that the State isn’t doing enough logging in our State Forests. You see, back in the 1930’s, timber companies logged and logged until, in certain places, there wasn’t anything left to log. The companies cut bait and the lands went back to the counties in which they were located. These counties—including Linn County—got tired of paying taxes on these profitless lands, so, through a series of statutes in the 1930’s and 1940’s, they sold them to the State of Oregon.

Since then they’ve been reseeded and restored. As State Forests, they’re managed under a multi-use philosophy of watershed protection, recreation, and sustainable timber production. The State still shares the majority of its logging revenue with those original counties, while using the rest of the money for management expenses.

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Clearcut with aerial pesticide application – photo by Francis Eatherington

But Linn County wants more. They believe that the State should be logging as much as possible to create the highest revenue possible. Under a 1941 Act, the Board of Forestry is required to manage State Forests to “secure the greatest permanent value to the state”. Linn County takes this to mean the greatest monetary value to the state—or, more accurately, to the counties—and they don’t think the State is doing enough.

The State’s sustainable multi-value approach takes habitat, water health, and recreation into consideration as much as logging. What, after all, secures a more permanent value? Logging profits that will quickly be spent, our forests lost to us for a hundred years or more? Or healthy forests that for the foreseeable years will provide a broad set of benefits to humans and animals, along with an ongoing timber harvest? The latter option could contribute recreation and conservation jobs that would last much longer than the smattering of logging jobs that would end when the forests were logged over.

There are no previous court cases or statutes that support Linn County’s lawsuit. Previous court cases have established only that the State must pay some of its forest revenues to the counties. They don’t specify the rate at which the logging has to take place, or even whether the money has to come specifically from logging.  The State could potentially create revenue through recreational purposes, as long as they give the counties their share.

Our State Forests are publicly owned and provide so many benefits besides logging money. Talk to your local representative today and urge them to put a stop to this lawsuit, or tell Governor Brown to stand up for our state forests and the Greatest Permanent Value for all Oregonians! There is so much more to our forests than money and the maximization of profit. Steady sunlight through the trees. Deer tracks in the leaf-lined mud. The first, purple salmonberry in the late spring. The forest is so much more than money—it’s alive.


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