After the Vote: With Determination and Hope
Executive Director Sean Stevens takes a moment to talk about how Tuesday's election results affect Oregon Wild, our issues, initiatives, and plans for moving forward.
By Sean Stevens
Executive Director, Oregon Wild
As Oregon Wild supporters and followers, you know elections matter for our environment. Policy differences at the federal and local level can have serious consequences for the health of our public lands, the purity of our drinking water, and the survival of our most threatened wildlife.
Last night's election had big implications for the wildlands, wildlife, and waters we cherish – and the outcome gives us reason to celebrate today.
But we also know our advocacy for the environment doesn’t stop after we’ve mailed in our ballot. President Obama’s reelection should remind us of the hopes we had for his presidency four years ago, and the mixed bag of environmental policies he has implemented. To achieve lasting protections for our most special places and to safeguard our natural inheritance, the real work begins now.
Read below for a rundown of election results, what they mean for Oregon’s environment, and how you can help Oregon Wild keep our state a special place.
In a victory which looks more decisive by the hour, Barack Obama turned back Republican challenger Mitt Romney. While Obama's record on the environment has been spotty (The Good: defending the Roadless Rule, killing the WOPR logging plan in western Oregon, signing into law the 2009 expansion of Oregon Wilderness – The Bad: signing a budget deal that removed gray wolves from ESA protections, increasing oil and gas drilling on federal lands), Romney would likely have been far worse for the environment. His comment during the primary that he didn't "know why the government owns so much of this land" was not exactly a spirited endorsement of maintaining the public lands legacy of Republican Teddy Roosevelt.
What's next: Oregon Wild will hold the Obama administration's feet to the fire on Endangered Species Act protections, ensuring our native wildlife are protected in the face of climate change and increasing development pressures. We'll also be watching as Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar works to re-write management plans for western Oregon BLM forests – demanding we remain on the path towards restoration rather than turning back to the clear-cut logging of the past.
With Democrats maintaining their hold on the U.S. Senate, our own Senator, Ron Wyden, is expected to take over leadership of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. This committee is a key gateway for all legislation dealing with public lands, putting Sen. Wyden in a powerful position which could allow him to make great gains in protecting Oregon's wildlands legacy.
What's next: As the new Congress convenes in January 2013, we'll look to push forward with our groundbreaking eastside forest legislation that would protect old-growth, preserve watersheds, and focus the U.S. Forest Service on restoring lands mismanaged in the past. We'll also push forward with our allies to finalize protections for special places that have languished too long in Congress including the Wild Rogue Wilderness, Devil's Staircase Wilderness, and Molalla Wild and Scenic River.
The ouster of anti-wolf and anti-environment legislator Mike Schauffler in the May primary was a sign of good things to come. On Election Night, four candidates endorsed by our friends at OLCV won victories over incumbent opponents, throwing the state House back to a pro-environment majority.
What's next: We'll be in Salem this year to fight against any potential anti-wolf legislation that we have come to expect year in and year out. Oregon Wild will also join with a coalition of conservationists, river advocates, and anglers to deal with the growing problem of suction dredge mining in Oregon's rivers.
Oregon Wild joined with other wildlife and fisheries conservation groups last summer to support Measure 81 which aimed to reform the use of indiscriminate gillnets on the Columbia River to protect native fish and wildlife. In early September, the coalition abandoned the campaign to fully support an alternative compromise plan promoted by Governor Kitzhaber.
The somewhat lopsided results (Measure 81 went down 64%-36%) from last night were expected. In fact, with the gillnet lobby spending almost $900,000 to defeat the measure and newspapers across the state endorsing the Governor’s compromise and urging a "no" vote on 81, the fact that so many people voted to ban gillnets is telling.
What's next: Oregon Wild and our coalition partners
will continue to work with Governor Kitzhaber and ODFW to enact his
compromise proposal to reform gill netting. This Friday, the ODFW
commission will host a hearing in Salem and next Thursday, Nov. 15 a final meeting of a joint Oregon/Washington task force will be held in Seaside to hammer out the final details of reforming gillnet use
on the Columbia River. Oregon Wild will continue to work with our
allies to push for a final rule-making by the ODFW in early December.
For the wild,Sean Stevens
P.S.: The election results last night have us hopeful we can work to pry open a gridlocked Congress and finally push forward with legislation to protect and restore Oregon’s special places. But we can’t seize this opportunity without your help. Make a contribution today and help us protect the Oregon we love, or go to wweek.com/giveguide and make a special donation to Oregon Wild through Willamette Week’s Give!Guide.