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Grassroots Advocates Push for New Agenda Following Governor's Response to WOPR

This press release is an update on the federal forest-related events of this week and reactions from the grassroots entities that did much of the heavy lifting, sometimes literally, to stop the WOPR. The release includes news from a closed conference on federal forest legislation that occurred Wed., Dec. 10.
Rising Tide Activist presents gift basket to Governor's aid
Rising Tide Activist presents gift basket to Governor's aid
Grassroots Advocates Push for New Agenda Following Governor's Response to WOPR

Members of Cascadia Rising Tide, the group that organized the tree sit at the State Capitol, and others in the WOPR & Beyond Coalition, celebrate the delay of the Bureau of Land Management's decision on the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR) following the Governor's long-awaited response. The forest advocates decided to deliver the Governor a gift basket just before he released his favorable response on the WOPR. With a sense of accomplishment, grassroots groups in the Coalition are already pushing the larger, established environmental groups to take the offensive in cooperation with broader interests with regard to federal forest policy that would protect native forests, implement real restoration, and create jobs. At a day-long conference in Portland on Wednesday, WOPR & Beyond Coalition members were a vocal minority. They called for a shift to a paradigm touted by UO Law Professor Mary Wood as the Nature's Trust Doctrine, in which federal agencies are obligated to protect natural resources, forest-based economics are relocalized and harmonized with natural systems, and in which strong scientific evidence and restoration are dominant themes. Samantha Chirillo, member of Cascadia Rising Tide and Organizer of the WOPR & Beyond Coalition, explains, "On public forest lands, the time is now to protect our dwindling native, biodiverse forests as carbon storage systems and put thousands of people to work removing logging roads that will otherwise continue to release tons of sediment into our waterways and render salmon recovery efforts impossible. We need to protect our waterways from road deterioration now before the unemployment figures get much worse and while we still have the affordable fuel to get the job done." Nevertheless, she reports, the environmental establishment pushes ahead with the same stale agenda, failing to engage the public and seek broader support from labor and social justice interests, thereby failing to achieve a groundswell needed to implement a bold new agenda whose time has come. "Only by joining forces with other movements and taking the offensive will the environmental movement regain its credibility and be able to save the planet from climate crisis."

On Sunday, 17 Oregonians, including members of Cascadia Rising Tide (CRT) and Benton Forest Coalition, as well as several Salem residents, approached the Governor's mansion with a signs and a banner that read "Stop Clearcutting the Climate." After a security guard turned them away, the advocates went to the Governor's office on Monday, ultimately settling for leaving the basket with Executive Assistant to the Governor Jo Bell. CRT members explained to Bell the purpose of each item in the gift basket, intended as a more personal way to convey their unwavering support for the Governor in objecting to the WOPR than the tree sit or 300-person rally that the group recently held. The basket included a letter from CRT (see attachment), homemade cookies, a photo album of WOPR-threatened forests and opinion pieces written in opposition to the WOPR, a book on ecoforestry practices, and DVDs produced by Coalition partners: one from the Clearcutting the Climate Conference on the forest-climate connection, Boom, Bust & the BLM showing the impacts of the BLM's old growth clearcutting in S. Oregon, and Exposing the Truth showing via Google Earth images how little native forest is left in the Northwest.

Of particular significance, CRT felt, was their gift of The Lorax, a children's book by Dr. Seuss, in which a CEO cuts down an entire forest, and the animals and people have to migrate elsewhere. CRT members explained in their letter to the Governor, "At the end, a child is given one last seed to plant and nurture in a pathetic attempt to bring back an entire forest that was destroyed by over-consumption and short-term greed. We hope that you will choose a different path than the CEO in The Lorax, taking a stand to protect our ancient forests before there is only one seed left. . . . If you stand against the WOPR, you will not be alone; we will be standing with you. Then you can read The Lorax to your grandchildren with pride about your positive legacy rather than remorse for stealing something away from them."

The basket also included a card signed by the Governor's neighbors that urged him to reject the WOPR. A disappointment to the advocates was outgoing Secretary of State Bill Bradbury's refusal to sign the card. Although he agreed to sign the card during his climate change presentation, the politician, rumored to have his eyes on the Governor's seat, said later that he "didn't want to go there," as his home base supporters in S. Oregon did support the WOPR. Although he agreed with the climate advocates that elected officials should represent the will of the majority more so that one's own constituents, Bradbury still refused to sign the card.

Despite the good news, Chirillo says, "We'll see how the BLM responds to the Governor's requests. Regardless though, there's a long way to go to protect our forests. Fortunately, with all the heightened public awareness and solidarity among more of the community recently, we are prepared and energized to confront other challenges to our forests." She explains that, if the BLM's final decision occurs under an Obama administration, hopefully with top-level agency appointees much less wedded to the timber industry, the WOPR would get cut back to protect more old growth, call for more thinning than clearcutting, keep more waterway protections, and retain its commitments and agreements with other agencies set under the current Northwest Forest Plan. However, the WOPR would become part of the federal legislation that Senator Wyden and Congressman DeFazio have developed. However, Coalition members recognize that there are still serious problems with Wyden's and DeFazio's legislation that need to be addressed. A next step for the Coalition is to develop a grassroots vision for forest policy and start pushing forward elements of that agenda regardless of what the larger, environmental establishment does. Asserts Chris Foulke of the Benton Forest Coalition, "We need to develop forest policy for which the goals are publicly derived, practical, and ecologically sound."

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