Moey Newbold is Outreach & Communications Coordinator for Central Oregon LandWatch
The challenges facing the Earth's forests, oceans, and atmosphere affect all of us. Unfortunately, true environmental victories are hard to come by—often the wins are incremental and temporary. Let's take this time to celebrate the successes we do achieve because ultimately, a win for nature is a win for us all. This is a short list of some of the biggest local, national, and international victories on environmental issues in 2015.
1. Defeating the Keystone Pipeline
Despite Central Oregon's snowy winter so far, we know climate change has already begun to have an impact on the planet. As carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere rise, the impacts are predicted to become more severe.
This year, we avoided what Dr. James Hansen, former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, referred to as "game over for the planet" with the defeat of the Keystone Pipeline! The proposed pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico would have facilitated the exploitation of Canada's tar sands.
After seven years of debate between TransCanada and climate activists, President Obama finally officially rejected the application in early November. Cheers to the ordinary people around the United States who staged more than 750 direct actions and protests and succeeded in pressuring our government to choose planet over profit—this time.
2. Fighting Sprawl in Bend
Chances are you choose to live in Bend because you enjoy being surrounded by natural beauty. If you've ever wondered why our city stops at city limits instead of sprawling outward like cities do in most other states, thank the urban growth boundary!
Statewide land use planning laws require cities to carefully develop urban growth boundaries (UGBs). In 2009, Bend sent a proposal to the state to expand the UGB by about 40 percent or a whopping 8,400 acres. However, the state remanded the proposal.
Currently, the City is getting close to submitting an updated UGB to the state. With help from organizations like Central Oregon LandWatch and involved citizens, the City has already winnowed the expansion down to just under 2,000 acres. Using our land more efficiently will save taxpayer dollars, facilitate walkable, bike-able neighborhoods, and prevent the destruction of many acres of wildlife habitat.
3. An International Climate Deal in Paris
A few weeks ago, 195 nations signed the most ambitious international agreement ever to fight climate change and limit carbon emissions. World leaders agreed to hold "the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels" and to check in on how countries are faring on their individual climate plans every five years.
It should be noted that the goals set in Paris are neither strong enough to avert some already-assured dangerous climate change impacts nor are the goals binding for those who signed. This is bad news for the people who are most vulnerable to climate change, but a step in the right direction.
4. Removal of Two of Oregon's Worst Dams for Fish
This summer, WaterWatch of Oregon was successful in leading a legal effort to remove two dams from a tributary to the Rogue River. The Wimer and Fielder dams were constructed as irrigation diversions in the 1900s. Demolishing these obstructions reconnected up to 70 miles of high quality fish habitat for salmon and steelhead.
5. Protection for Sutton Mountain
The proposed Sutton Mountain wilderness area totals more than 58,000 acres of awe-inspiring landscape in the John Day River Basin. Thanks to efforts by local conservation groups and their partners, on May 7, Sen. Merkley introduced legislation to ensure that this area will become permanently protected. Pencil in a trip to this regional treasure on your 2016 Oregon Natural Desert Association calendar!