News from Salem: Can we just adjourn already?

June 26, 2015

Well, we’re nearing the end of the 2015 session of the Oregon Legislature, and I think it’s fair to say it’s going to shake out as a disappointing session for the environmental community. Sierra Club staff have been closely tracking bills and meeting with legislators in Salem to advocate for clean, renewable energy, wildlife protection, our state forests, and more.

state capitol

But in short, it’s been a lot of work, with not much to show for it in terms of real conservation accomplishments. We’ll have a full rundown post-session, but here’s a quick summary of some of the work we’ve been doing in our state capitol:

  • Clean Fuels Program: If you’ve paid any attention at all to the news recently, you’ve likely heard the saga of the near-repeal of the Clean Fuels Program. Extending the sunset on Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program – which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Oregon’s transportation sector by 10% over the next decade – was one of the Oregon Conservation Network’s Priorities for a Healthy Oregon. Though it was the subject of much contention, the bill finally passed earlier this session and has been one of the few environmental victories in 2015. Unfortunately, it got wrapped up in partisan squabbling over a transportation package and was very nearly snatched away from us. While it is not a perfect program and is merely a first step toward solving our climate crisis, having it repealed would have been a real setback for the environmental community. Luckily, as of today, that effort appears to have stalled and the Clean Fuels Program is likely safe for now.
  • Toxic-Free Toys: Senate Bill 478, the Toxic Free Kids Act, will protect kids from exposure to toxics in children’s products by requiring manufacturers to notify health officials when children’s products sold in Oregon contain chemicals of concern, and then to phase out those chemicals for three product categories. The bill passed out of the Ways and Means Committee just this week and the prospects seem good for its passage.
  • Coal to Clean Energy: One of our biggest priorities coming into session – and another of the Oregon Conservation Network’s priorities – was our Coal-to-Clean package. Senate Bill 477 and House Bill 2729 would have moved Oregon’s investor-owned electric utilities – Pacific Power and PGE – off coal by 2025 and required that the replacement power for coal was largely renewable energy like solar and wind. And even though Oregonians overwhelmingly support the idea of getting coal out of our energy mix, and even though many legislators were initially on board with the proposal, the legislation died in committee. We were quite disappointed with that outcome and hope to bring these concepts back in the future, as we are committed to finding the right path to reach the broader goals of transitioning off coal to clean energy.
  • Solar and other clean energy: We’ve also worked on a number of other bills related to clean energy that remain alive in the 2015 session. House Bill 2447 will extend the very successful Residential Energy Tax Credit for home solar energy. HB 2632 would help to incentivize the creation of utility-scale solar power in the state. These solar energy bills are currently still moving through the legislative process and have the potential to be positive steps in the right direction if they can pass.

In addition, several bills relating to limiting or putting a price on carbon were introduced this session. House Bill 3470 – which would create a “cap and delegate” program similar to California’s – is the only one that remains alive. We’ll continue to monitor and support this legislation.

  • Elliott State Forest: The Sierra Club played a leading role in the coalition that got the Elliott State Forest designated as an OCN priority. As a process within the Department of State Lands (DSL) plays out to determine the ultimate future of the Elliott, we were working in the legislature to set up a process by which such a solution could be implemented. But the trust land transfer program we and Rep. Tobias Read were working to establish with HB 3474 died in committee on the bill deadline day. On the bright side, we were pleased to see the demise of HB 3533, which would have given the State Land Board and DSL license to sell off parcels of the Elliott to the highest bidder. We hope to be able to bring legislation in a future session to help reach a good solution for the Elliott.
  • Defending Wildlife: Just two weeks into the 2015 session, we saw renewed attacks on Oregon’s wildlife. House Bills 2050 and 2181 were two of the many introduced bills that would have allowed counties to opt out of a statewide ban on the practice of hunting cougars with dogs. Thankfully, those bills – along with a bill that would have prohibited the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission from including the gray wolf on the list of threatened or endangered species – died in committee and we seem to have mostly escaped any mischief on wildlife issues.
  • Suction Dredge Mining: One other bill we were supporting was Senate Bill 830, which would have taken steps to improve the regulation of suction dredge mining in our state. In addition to putting a cap on the total number of suction dredge mining permits, SB 830 would have placed limitations on mining – both in-river and on uplands – where it would undermine Oregon’s investment in habitat restoration for salmon and other critical species. The bill seems to have died late in session, but we plan to work with partners to bring back similar legislation in the 2016 session.

We’ll keep plugging away these last few weeks in Salem and will see where we end up. But we can’t do it without you, so stay tuned for ways to get involved and help pass good legislation to protect the Oregon we all love.


The Wilson River Corridor – A Little Something for Everyone

June 25, 2015

Oregon’s renowned public lands offer Oregonians a unique and special lifestyle and provide our state with a  natural legacy–picturesque beauty, diverse wildlife, wild rivers, snow-capped mountains, lush forests–that is the envy of many. Public lands are one of the defining aspects of this great state, and iconic national forests and parks are often the go-to for Oregonians mentioning their favorite getaways.

What about our state-owned jewels in north west Oregon? The Tillamook and Clatsop state forests are not on the cover of Oregon travel and destination magazines or profiled by national media, but these forests–logged, burned and now recovering–may be Oregon’s best place to offer a little something for everyone. A trip down Highway 6 illustrates why…

Just past milepost 35 (a mere 30 minute drive from Hillsboro) is beautiful Gales Creek. This tributary of the Tualatin River offers a great spot for the family to camp, play in the creek, and explore the nearby douglas fir forest.

Just past milepost 35 (a 30 minute drive from Hillsboro) is beautiful Gales Creek. This tributary of the Tualatin River offers a great spot for the family to camp, play in the creek, and explore the nearby douglas fir forest.

Wilson River Corridor 397

Two miles down the road (milepost 33) is the southern turnoff to University Falls Trail. A short walk will take a photographer and plenty of gear to a curtain-like falls that captures light beautifully and pours into a bundle of downed logs and beautiful pools.

CIMG7042 Ryan Kilgren

Near milepost 28 is Elk Creek Trailhead and Campground. Options here are abundant: splash around in the Wilson River, find a cool spot and set up the hamock, or start the long haul up the Kings-Elk Mountain traverse. A safe bet is hopping on the mountain bike and heading down the awesome Wilson River Trail.

Three miles down the highway or the trail is the Kings Mountain Trailhead. This iconic coast range hike is a quad killer--the trail climbs 2,546 feet in just 2.5 miles. From the summit (3,226 feet) one can see the Pacific Ocean and Mount Hood. Spectacular!

Three miles down the highway or the trail is the Kings Mountain Trailhead. This iconic coast range hike is a quad killer–the trail climbs 2,546 feet in just 2.5 miles. From the summit (3,226 feet) one can see the Pacific Ocean and Mount Hood. Spectacular!

At milepost 23 the whole family can take a break from the heat and find the Jones Creek Campground. This very accessible spot features just about anything you'd want on a hot summer day. The feature is deep swimming holes, warm basking rocks rocks, and sandy beaches.

At milepost 23 the whole family can take a break from the heat and find the Jones Creek Campground. This very accessible spot features just about anything you’d want on a hot summer day. The feature is deep swimming holes, warm basking rocks rocks, and sandy beaches.

The Footbridge Trailhead at milepost 20 is the culmination of the Wilson River Trail and the beginning of some great spots for fishing. Though the water will be low during summer months, a patient angler can pursue cutthroat trout or hatchery summer steelhead, though catch-and-release fishing can stress out native fish in low water.

The Footbridge Trailhead at milepost 20 is the beginning of some great spots for fishing. Though the water will be low during summer months, a patient angler can pursue cutthroat trout or hatchery summer steelhead, though catch-and-release fishing can stress out native fish in low water.

The Wilson River Corridor (and all of Oregon’s state forests) are worthy of protection, exploration, and enjoyment. Spend some time in these spots this summer. Find some peace and relaxation. Share pictures and help tell the story: #WilsonRiverFun #ORStateForests. Check back frequently, this is just a taste and we’ll be exploring these spots (and others) more in upcoming posts. On September 5th, join us on the Wilson River for a giant celebration of these lands. Details soon…


Re-Imagining “50 Hikes in the Tillamook State Forest”

June 1, 2015

The Sierra Club will be publishing a new version of the iconic 50 Hikes in the Tillamook State Forest which is now out of print and out of date. Hopefully this version will include several new hikes, including some in the Clatsop State Forest. We’re very excited to take a new look at all of the great trails in the area and to work with some amazing volunteers to put the book together. If you have any interest in being involved in the project email Lauren Cooper (lcooper@reed.edu). Happy trails!

50 Hikes


Protect Critical Old Growth in the Clatsop State Forest

May 10, 2015
Measuring old trees in the Homesteader sale - photo by Trygve Steen

Measuring old trees in the Homesteader sale – photo by Trygve Steen

The “Homesteader” timber sale in the Clatsop state forest calls for the clearcutting of some of the best old growth forest habitat remaining on Oregon’s north coast. The sale features trees over 130 years old and over 200 feet high–relative monsters in a region that has been logged and burned over.

Click here to ask the Department of Forestry to cancel or amend this sale and conserve this amazing parcel!

Click here to read the full Homesteader Report


#NoFastTrack Events – Update Your Calendar!

April 28, 2015

Fast Track legislation was introduced two weeks ago and our opposition movement is growing!

Here is a list of upcoming events, please attend as many as possible! We are channeling our efforts toward Reps. Bonamici and Schrader, as neither of them have committed to a position yet. Please call their offices to express your concern over fast tracking the largest trade deal ever to be negotiated. More info at sierraclub.org/trade.

Rep. Bonamici: 503-469-6010, 202-225-0855

Rep. Schrader: 503-557-1324, 202-225-5711

5/1/15 – Sen. Wyden Town Hall at South Albany High School, Albany 1:30pm – express your disappointment in the Senator for co-sponsoring the Fast Track legislation.

5/2/15 – Sen. Wyden Town Hall at Umpqua Community College, Roseburg 2:00pm – express more disappointment in the Senator for co-sponsoring the Fast Track bill.

5/4/15 – Rally with Rep. DeFazio in Eugene.  Noon-12:30 at the Lane County Courthouse/Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza – thank Rep. DeFazio for his continued opposition to fast track and show our other Oregon Reps we stand strongly opposed to fast track.

5/4/15 – Phone bank with Sierra Club to urge members to call Rep. Bonamici and Rep. Schrader and invite to rallies. 6:15 pm, Oregon Chapter office, 1821 SE Ankeny St Portland

5/5/15 – Rally at Rep. Schrader’s office, 12:00pm 621 High St. Oregon City

5/8/15 – Rally at Rep. Bonamici’s office, 10:00am 12725 SW Millikan Way

Thanks to everyone who has taken actions and continues to do so! This is a daunting but very winnable fight!

As always, feel free to email me with any questions or concerns.

Onwards,

Morgan Gratz-Weiser, Community Outreach Coordinator Oregon Sierra Club

morgan.gratzweiser@sierraclub.org


Fast Track Introduced – What’s in it and what do we do next?

April 23, 2015

For the last few months, the Sierra Club, along with environmental and labor allies, have escalated pressure in opposition to fast track legislation. We succeeded in pushing back the introduction of fast track by a number of weeks, raising our voices to ask Senator Wyden to step away from negotiations with Senator Hatch (R-UT). However, last Thursday Sens. Hatch and Wyden co-sponsored the fast track bill, which looks conspicuously similar to the 2014 Camp-Baucus fast-track bill that died shortly after its introduction.

Now that the bill has been introduced, our opposition shifts to include the environmental analysis of the bill. First off, the bill includes the minimal protections that have been in all trade deals since 2007, with no legally binding or enforceable provisions against illegal logging, poaching and trade of endangered wildlife, or bans against shark finning or commercial whaling. According to the fast-track text, countries must “adopt and maintain measures implementing…its obligations under common environmental multilateral agreements;” however, reports indicate the United States is not on track to meet these negotiating objectives, and the bill is unenforceable anyway.

Popularized by Elizabeth Warren, the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause allows for increased lawsuits by corporations over nearly any environmental or climate-related law. Read here about the U.S. company Bilcon suing Canada for $188 million because Canada rejected a proposed rock quarry mining site along the highly biodiverse and sensitive Bay of Fundy coastline.

This fast track legislation is being implemented to speed the Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress, before the public can read it, and before many members of Congress have time to synthesize it. Congressional staffers are not allowed to read the text, and although the bill must be made public 60 days before the president officially enters the U.S. into the agreement, no changes will be made to the text.

So, what’s next? We must impress upon our elected officials that the people of Oregon are opposed to the flawed fast-track system of pushing secretly negotiated trade deals through Congress without appropriate oversight. Help us by making calls to Representative Bonamici and Representative Blumenauer’s offices, write a letter to the editor in your local paper, and encourage your friends and family to learn more about what fast tracking the TPP could mean for them. Information is at www.sierraclub.org/trade. We have a very real chance at defeating this legislation, but we do need as much support as possible.

Please don’t hesitate to email with inquiries and for ways to get involved! Thanks for your advocacy!

Morgan Gratz-Weiser, Community Outreach Coordinator

morgan.gratzweiser@sierraclub.org


News from the Oregon Legislature

April 23, 2015

Whew! We’ve just crossed the midpoint of the 2015 session of the Oregon Legislature, and it’s been a whirlwind of a session. Sierra Club staff have been closely tracking bills and meeting with legislators in Salem to advocate for clean, renewable energy, wildlife protection, and our state forests. So here, halfway to sine die and just after a first critical deadline for bills to have passed out of their committee of origin, it’s good time to reflect on where we stand.

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

In short, while we have had some real disappointments on Coal-to-Clean Energy and on the Elliott State Forest, there are some glimmers of good news to go along with the letdowns. Here’s a summary of some of the work we’ve been doing in our state capitol:

⇒ Coal to Clean Energy: One of our biggest priorities coming into session – and also one of the Oregon Conservation Network’s Priorities for a Healthy Oregon – was our Coal-to-Clean package. Senate Bill 477 and House Bill 2729 would have moved Oregon’s investor-owned electric utilities – Pacific Power and PGE – off coal by 2025 and required that the replacement power for coal was largely renewable energy like solar and wind. And even though Oregonians overwhelmingly support the idea of getting coal out of our energy mix, and even though many legislators were initially on board with the proposal, it appears that our coal-to-clean legislation will not be moving forward in 2015. We are quite disappointed with this outcome and hope to bring these concepts back in the future, as we are committed to finding the right path to reach the broader goals of transitioning off coal to clean energy.

⇒ Solar and other clean energy: Even though coal-to-clean stalled out, the Sierra Club is still working on a number of other bills related to clean energy that remain alive in the 2015 session. House Bill 2447 will extend the very successful Residential Energy Tax Credit for home solar energy. HB 2941 would help to encourage the creation of community “solar gardens” and HB 2632 would help to incentivize the creation of utility-scale solar power in the state. All of these solar energy bills are currently still moving through the legislative process.

In addition, several bills relating to limiting or putting a price on carbon were introduced this session. However, after the first committee deadline, only House Bill 3470 remains alive. This bill enforces existing state climate goals, established by the legislature in 2007, and requires DEQ to create an action plan for hitting those targets. That plan could use different strategies, including market-based mechanisms, to maximize feasible and cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.

2457514213_a8e4935293_b

⇒ Elliott and North Coast State Forests: The Sierra Club played a leading role in the coalition that got the Elliott State Forest designated as an OCN priority. As a process within the Department of State Lands (DSL) plays out to determine the ultimate future of the Elliott, we were working in the legislature to set up a process by which such a solution could be implemented. But in a very disheartening turn of events, the trust land transfer program we and Rep. Tobias Read were working to establish with HB 3474 died in committee on the bill deadline day. Now we are left only with HB 3533, which would give the State Land Board and DSL license to sell off parcels of the Elliott to the highest bidder. We are still evaluating how this situation will play out, but at this point we are not optimistic that we can reach a good solution for the Elliott with this legislation.

However, we continue to work in the legislature to support some requests for general fund dollars from the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) to increase recreational potential and research and monitoring in the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests. We and our partners in the North Coast State Forest Coalition believe that this money could help ODF provide the balanced management that Oregonians expect from these lands and move the agency away from its current timber-dependent funding sources.

⇒ Defending Wildlife: Just two weeks into the 2015 session, we saw renewed attacks on Oregon’s wildlife. House Bills 2050 and 2181 were two of the many introduced bills that would have allowed counties to opt out of a statewide ban on the practice of hunting cougars with dogs. Thankfully, those bills – along with a bill that would have prohibited the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission from including the gray wolf on the list of threatened or endangered species – were pulled from the committee hearing agenda on the deadline day. We hope we have seen the last of the bad wildlife bills in this session, but we’ll continue to keep an eye open for future mischief.

⇒ Suction Dredge Mining: One other bill we are supporting is Senate Bill 830, which would take great steps to improve the regulation of suction dredge mining in our state. Oregonians know that it is vitally important to have strong protections in place to safeguard our rivers and salmon habitat. In addition to putting a cap on the total number of suction dredge mining permits, SB 830 will place limitations on mining – both in-river and on uplands – where it would undermine Oregon’s investment in habitat restoration for salmon and other critical species.

We’ll keep plugging away in Salem, tracking the legislation on land use, water quality, toxic chemicals, other energy proposals, and who-knows-what-else. But we can’t do it without you, so stay tuned for ways to get involved and help pass good legislation to protect the Oregon we all love.


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