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News, notes, trip reports, and the lighter side (of the wilder side) of the Oregon environmental and conservation movement.
The Obama administration so far falls short on protecting Wilderness and other conservation measures.
Nearly four years ago, as President Obama entered his first term, conservationists had high hopes for the administration as it got off to a good start - signing Wilderness protections into law that included 202,000 acres of some of Oregon's natural treasures.
Since then, the administration - and Congress - has focused more on energy development on public lands than increased conservation.
A recent essay posted by The Center for American Progress calls out this major imbalance:
Eugene's summer intern reflects on her experience recommending Areas of Critical Environmental Concern to the BLM.
This year, the Bureau of Land Management is starting to revise its management plans for its lands in Western Oregon. Again.
Fireworks not expected, but it sure is a chance to see the sausage factory...
In five minutes, the Senate subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests (housed in the Energy and Natural Resources committee) will drop the gavel on a hearing that includes our Devil's Staircase Wilderness Bill.
I'll track the live stream of what is sure to be a riveting proceeding with a few live updates.
Waiting for the live stream to start and noticing that the Energy and Natural Resource committee website won a "Golden Mouse" award back in 2007. Investigation to follow into how Oregon Wild can capture such a prize.
Subcommittee chairman Ron Wyden kicks off the hearing with a run down of the legislation. Wyden gives a special shout-out to Devil's Staircase in the list, mentioning it is from his home state.
Wyden: "Devil's Staircase represents what the state of Oregon is all about."
Ron goes on to thank all of the Oregon community leaders that have contributed to the effort to protect Devil's Staircase. Then he kicks it over to Senator Bingaman who has his own Wilderness business to attend to.
Here is the text of the Devil's Staircase Wilderness Bill. Senator Wyden has co-sponsored the bill with Senator Jeff Merkley. A House subcommittee on which Rep. Peter DeFazio sits already considered Devil's Staircase last week. Rep. DeFazio has been pushing hard to protect the D.S., even going so far as to venture on what he described as the "toughest hike of his life" to the namesake waterfall.
Senator Lisa Murkowski is talking now. I'm not totally sure what the measure she is supporting is all about. Here is the text of that one. I do know to treat anything she says with skepticism. Murkowski's LCV rating is dismal. She scored a 9% in the last congressional session. Also, she recently tried to make an end run around EPA enforcement of environmental laws. Mother Jones has a good piece on it here.
Senator Udall is testifying for a New Mexico Wilderness bill. (Yay!) He just quoted Aldo Leopold. Can't go wrong with that. Also, I found the group that awards the Golden Mouse - the Congressional Management Foundation. Alas, I don't think Oregon Wild can qualify for a golden mouse after all.
Jay Jensen with the Forest Service now testifying. One of the first things he says: "we support the Devil's Staircase Wilderness." Well, that's pretty unequivocal! His comments are brief and glowing in their praise of the beauty and wildness of the Wasson area. Looks like we won't be fighting the Forest Service (as in Wilderness campaigns of years past) on this one.
Uh-oh. Here comes the voice of the noisy, polluting, dangerous ATVing crowd - Senator John Barrasso. This is the guy who tried to allow agencies to bypass environmental review for economic stimulus projects. The Oregon Wild alert list took action and helped to kill that backwards amendment.
Lots of Alaska talk, and I'm starting to tune out. I'm checking out of the hearing. Use the link above to sign up for the Oregon Wild alert list and get updates on the Devil's Staircase and other campaigns.
Oregon Wild board and staff tough it out in the proposed Devil's Staircase Wilderness.
On Saturday, four Oregon Wild board members (and one spouse!), and Doug Heiken and I (the Eugene staff) went on an epic adventure into the proposed Devil's Staircase Wilderness. Located in the Coast Range just east of Reedsport, this area is incredibly rugged, home to huge trees and lots of wildlife, and hides a notoriously hard to find waterfall.
Armed with good maps and a vague memory of my previous guided trip to the Staircase, we headed off. Doug's posting on Facebook explains it well:
"I and several experienced hikers, all Oregon Wild staff and board,
went on an 8 hour off-trail hike into Devil's Staircase wilderness
yesterday. We were having a great but challenging time following a
poorly marked informal "trail," but eventually found the falls. Trouble
began on our way back when we failed to find the ridge we needed to
follow and got seriously lost (for like 3 hours). I was making mental
plans to spend the night in the woods when we found our way. Cheers all
around! We had only minutes to spare, meaning that the last part of the
hike was in twilight under a dense forest canopy and we got back to our
cars in near darkness.
The Wasson Creek wilderness is about the closest thing to forest primeval that I have experienced in a long time. This place deserves both our deep respect as well as permanent legal protection as wilderness so my kids and their kids can get lost and found there too."
Since our return, we have determined that we actually did NOT find the infamous falls. We found a falls, but not the falls. It just goes to show that even with everything going your way, true wilderness is really WILD!
By the way, Oregon Wild and other groups working to protect this area in no way endorse anyone trying to find Devil's Staircase. There are great, challenging, beautiful, and SAFE areas in the wilderness that we occasionally lead hikes to.
We heard a lot about hope, change, & leadership last fall. We're glad to see that one Oregonian meant it.
Seven months after the 2008 elections, the US Senate finally confirmed its 100th member. Though Oregon’s Senate drama didn’t drag on quite as long as Minnesota’s, you may recall that it took a few days to declare a winner. Once the dust settled and the votes were counted, Jeff Merkley was declared a clear winner over two-term Senator Gordon Smith
Conservationists can often be a cynical bunch. Still, we cheered as candidates from coast to coast were elected on some of the greenest rhetoric we’d heard in a long while. After years of playing defense and hanging on by our fingernails, hope was a pretty new and exciting feeling.
So we dusted off to-do lists that just days earlier had seemed like wishful-thinking lists and compared them to all the promises of our newly elected leaders. It turned out a lot of them matched up pretty well.
In some cases, we’re still waiting for those promises to be fulfilled. However, when it comes to Oregon’s junior senate seat, change, it seems, has come!