It's Your Oregon: Larry Williams
One of the founding members - and first Executive Director - of the Oregon Environmental Council, legendary conservationist Larry Williams speaks about launching a movement, conserving Oregon for future generations, and the fate of detachable pull-tabs.
Oregon Environmental Council 40th Anniversary
Memories of an Oregon Conservationist
By Larry Williams
A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Like many people, I had no idea what I was going to do when I grew up. Like a lot of things in life it all turned on happenstance. In 1955, during my last year in high school in Portland I got a job picking up and delivering film to a color-lab after school. I drove my 1939 Willys sedan to Portland’s photo stores every afternoon collecting film and delivering color prints. While working at the color lab I became acquainted with their lab technician, Bill Nordstrom. One day he asked if I would like to go on a hike with the Trails Club of Oregon. It turned out to be a wonderful trail on the flanks of Mt. St. Helens. I must admit that I did hesitate a bit when he told me it was a six mile trail.
It wasn’t that I had never experienced the out-of-doors, for my parents often took my brother and me camping. In the early 40’s I spent a lot of time in the woods above the Park Blocks in Portland’s West Hills. (We lived in a duplex on Montgomery St. where one of PSU’s buildings now sits.) After we moved to NE Portland my “woods” was Sullivan’s Gulch near the Lloyd Center. (Catching salamanders was its big attraction.) I soon joined the Trails Club. Shortly before the back-saving Kelty pack frame came out I got into weekend and weeklong hikes with the Trails Club along the Pacific Crest Trail. I also took up skiing on Mt. Hood and then added kayaking as a spring and fall activity to complete my outdoor activity schedule. My enthusiasm for hiking in the northwest led me to become president of the Trails Club and Oregon vice-president of the Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs.
In the late 1950’s the Forest Service began stepping up its timber sales in the old growth forests of the Cascades. As I returned to favorite trails I began to see new roads and clear-cuts in previously pristine forests. This increased logging was a special problem in Oregon where too little public land had been protected from logging and where the culture was very pro-logging.
Bagby Hot Springs: My first direct encounter with the U.S. Forest Service was over their road construction and logging sales in the upper Clackamas River drainage leading to Bagby Hot Springs. This was a favorite spot of mine. It had cedar log tubs to which hot water was channeled from the hot springs. Before my first visit it was an eight-mile hike through a magnificent river valley of old growth trees. My first hike to the hot springs was only four miles. In the spring of 1962 I discovered that the Forest Service was pushing a road up this magnificent valley. I, along with Bill Nordstrom and others, immediately paid a visit to the district ranger in Portland to protest this destruction. The district ranger assured us that the road would go no closer. Just to make sure we revisited Bagby the next weekend only to discover that the district ranger had lied to us. The road had already been pushed up the creek another half mile since our last visit. We made a return visit to the ranger’s office with photos in hand. He then reluctantly pulled back the cover of an easel revealing a map showing the road going right to the hot springs. Being still politically naive I was very surprised that an official of the U.S. government would lie. I immediately wrote a letter of protest to the Regional Forester and a letter-to-the-editor to The Oregonian. Soon after my letter was published I got a call from the district ranger saying “Okay, we have changed our plans and will relocate the road so it will go behind a hill and not into Bagby.” (The road now ends 1-1/2 miles from the hot springs.) This victory was a defining moment for me. We had saved a recreational treasure for future generations. Indeed, Bagby Hot Springs has its own web site! It appears that volunteers are taking good care of Bagby despite the much increased visitor use.
I have often said that making social change is like eating peanuts. Once you discover that you can make change there is no stopping. Bagby was my peanut!
Nestucca Spit: In 1965 the Oregon Department of Transportation Commission proposed to relocate Highway 101 on the Oregon Coast over a sand spit at the mouth of the Nestucca River near Pacific City. I joined the protests by those who feared the road would destroy the natural environment along the spit and limit public access to the beach. It was during this time I met Oregon Treasurer Robert W. Straub, who was leading the opposition, and Janet McLennan, a experienced public interest campaigner in Portland. We believed that if the State Highway Commission approved this road along the spit, it could well begin building roads over other sand spits down the entire Oregon coast.
We held a picnic on the beach and got public hearings in Tillamook and Portland. We also collected 50,000 signatures on an advisory petition presented to Glenn Jackson, Chairman the Department of Transportation Commission. But the real clincher to killing the project recalls Janet McLennan, “was the discovery of a reversionary clause in the deed by the BLM granting a portion of the spit to Oregon on condition that it be perpetually available for recreational use. Then in 1971 or 1972 Governor Tom McCall and Glenn Jackson finally gave up.”
Saving the Oregon Beaches: Shortly after the Nestucca road fight came yet another and even bigger threat to Oregon’s beaches. In 1968 a developer on the northern Oregon coast fenced off beach access for his hotel guests. He claimed that Oregon’s open beach law only extended below the high-tide zone. This it turned out to be true but nobody had ever challenged this law before. It had been generally accepted that the public had ownership west of the dunes. Limiting open access to the beaches could well have turned Oregon’s magnificent coastline into a string of fences where the public was not allowed. Again, Bob Straub rose to the challenge by launching the “Beaches are for Kids” campaign. He proposed a petition drive to get a one-cent per gallon gas tax on the Oregon ballot to buy the land from the top of the dunes to the high-tide mark. I again joined Janet McLennan and many others in spending many weekends on the streets of Portland seeking signers to our ballot initiative. We succeeded in our petition drive and were assigned the unfortunate ballot number 6.
The oil companies soon had billboards all over the state warning people to “Beware of Tricks in 6” -- with a rabbit coming out of a hat no less! They out spent us 100 to one. The measure went down to a resounding defeat. We thought that all our work had gone for naught. But that proved not to be true. The Oregon Supreme Court saved the Oregon coast from this blight. “It recognized a public right to use based on the English Common Law doctrine of Custom,” recalled Janet McLennan. “The decision was appealed on constitutional grounds to the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals. That appeal was heard by a three-judge panel, and finally sustained in a decision in either 1972 or 1973.” I like to believe that if it had not been for our campaign the court would not have ruled as it did.
The Sierra Club: What really solidified my commitment to the conservation movement was when I first attended a meeting of the executive committee of Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Sierra Club at the Trails Club’s ski lodge on Mt. Hood. (The Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club was founded in 1998.) There I met many of the leaders of the NW conservation movement (Holly Jones, Polly Dyer, Win and Dick Noyes, Sandy Tepfer to name a few). Even though they seemed really old to me I was, never the less, swept away by this group; their energy and their commitment to saving the land was very exciting. I have often wondered if I would have gotten so deeply involved in the environmental movement if I had not found the folks working in the trenches and running the campaigns so wonderful to be around. I felt privileged to work with them and got so caught up with the Sierra Club’s conservation campaigns that I later became the Chair of the NW Chapter. One of the people I met during this time was Dale Jones, who later became the NW Director of Friends of the Earth in Seattle. Dale and I spent a considerable amount of company time on the phone plotting campaign strategies. Dale worked for Westinghouse in Seattle and I was working in the advertising department of Omark Industries. (The inventor of saw chain for chain saws no less!) We were both bored to tears with our respective jobs and found our conservation work a stimulating outlet for our energies. Dale had a highly effective way of working quietly behind the scenes and was an excellent people person. For example, during the fight to stop Boeing from building the supersonic transport Dale would meet visiting reporters working on the SST story at the airport and spend the day shuttling them between meetings, all the while making sure they got the conservations message.
A Small World Story: Mention of the SST brings to mind George Alderson, an Oregonian working in Washington, DC for Friends of the Earth. He led the very effective campaign against the SST. Amazingly, Doug Scott’s mother, George’s mother and my mother all worked at the Multnomah County Library in Portland. When Doug’s mother passed away his father married the head librarian, for whom all three mothers had worked!
In 1966 or ‘67 I was approached by the NW Chapter of the Sierra Club asking if I would take the lead in establishing a Sierra Club group in Portland. With the support of Bill Nordstrom and many others I agreed to take on the project. Our first meeting was held in the Nordstrom’s living room in Portland’s West Hills. There we drafted the by-laws and begin the process of organizing the Columbia Group. Because we were fearful of outside infiltration by industry types we designed the by-laws so the board of directors would choose the new directors. This approach did not pass muster with the Club’s managers in San Francisco so we redrew the by-laws so all the members of the Group would elect the members of the executive committee as is done nationally. To get it off the ground I chaired the Group for the first year or so. During the early years the Group held its membership meetings at the main branch of the Multnomah County Library, where my mother was a librarian. Among the Groups early participants were Buck Parker, CEO of EarthJustice, and Steve McCarthy, who became head of Tri-Met and then CEO of his own distillery in Hood River.
During this time I was still working in the advertising department of Omark Industries; makers of Oregon Saw Chain for chain saws. Several senior department heads let me know that they did not appreciate my outspoken conservation advocacy. Opposing logging the redwoods in California or the campaign to save French Pete and the like was not good for business, they reasoned. But they backed-down when I told them that the president of the company, John Gray, supported my conservation work. I even spent a week with him and his daughter kayaking off Vancouver Island.
I do remember one awkward time when conservation work ran head-long into my job. I was scheduled to speak at the Northeast Portland City Club as a representative of the conservation movement but had to cancel because I had to staff a sales booth marketing Oregon Saw Chain in the heart of the redwoods. That was cause for great merriment among both friends and foes. In late 1967 I left Omark and moved to the advertising department of Hyster Company. I was not happy being in this ultra-conservative company and they with me. So, in the summer of 1968 I resigned. Getting a new job in the advertising industry was a problem because of my high profile involvement in conservation. It came as no surprise that I was disliked by the timber industry. The problem was that they were the clients of most of the major advertising agencies in Portland. Georgia-Pacific once threatened to sue me for libel in speaking out against their plans to log the redwoods and blocked one promising position with a Portland ad agency.
The Timber Battles: In preparation of reinvigorating the French Pete campaign Brock Evans, NW Conservation Representative of the Sierra Club, undertook a study of Oregon’s wild lands. He found that of the 70 valleys of at least ten miles long in the whole length of the Oregon Cascades only three were still roadless – Eagle Creek in the Columbia George, Separation Creek, which flows through the Three Sisters Wilderness and French Pete Valley. In hopes of logging French Pete Valley the Forest Service had removed it from the Three Sisters Primitive Area in 1957. In response a small cadre of conservationists based in Eugene had stalled logging plans but had been unable to succeed in its long-term protection. Brock observed that “French Pete became the symbol for all that was wrong with federal forestry policies across Oregon, not just in its Cascade Mountains.” French Pete was saved, but it took many years of struggle. In fact it was sometime in the mid-1950’s that the Forest Service began the process that redesignated the There Sisters Primitive Area into a wilderness area and lopped off 53,000 acres in the process. The fight to save French Pete is too long to tell here but suffice to say the campaign lasted until 1978 when the Three Sisters was placed into the Wilderness System with 45,000 additional acrea more than the Forest Service had proposed. The legislative vehicle was The American Endangered Wilderness Act, a bill drafted by Doug Scott, then the Conservation Director of the Sierra Club. In all, the Act added 13 new wilderness areas and expanded four others in ten western states for a total addition of 1.3 million acres of national forest lands to the National Wilderness Preservation System. No small achievement!
Here is one French Pete letter-to-the-editor I cherish:
“One wonders why the logger types are so agitated by the fact that little French Pete Valley might not get its trees hauled away to the sawmill. Mr. Horner (vice president of a lumber company) tells us that only the rich and the young will enjoy French Pete Valley if the trees are not cut. Who, might I ask, will enjoy it after its trees are cut?”
Signed: Catherine Williams (my mother).
In the mid-70’s the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station published a research paper documenting how both the public and private timber lands were being over cut. Not too much could be done about the over cutting on private lands but the Forest Service is governed by the Multiple-use Sustained Yield Act. The excessive cutting on the federal lands appeared to be in violation of this act. I met with the Regional Forester Charles Connaughton to protest their excessive cutting. I will never forget Mr. Connaughton’s response to my complaint: “We manage the land in a condition in which it can continue to grow trees.” Hardly a correct reading of the Multiple-use Sustained Yield Act. After leaving the Forest Service he became a lobbyist for the Western Wood Products Association.
With the support of The Wilderness Society I was often in Washington, DC to testify before the Congress on various land management issues. During on visit Stuart Brandborg, the Executive Director of The Wilderness Society, asked if I would join him for a meeting at the White House with President Nixon’s top Domestic Affairs Adviser John Erlichman. Erlichman said the administration was considering drafting legislation to move the Forest Service from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of the Interior. We like having the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service in separate agencies so we could play one against the other. However, we did not tell Erlichman that. We pointed out that the Congress would never go for it because it would upset committee jurisdictions. The House and Senate Agriculture Committees would fight any attempt to take away their jurisdiction over the Forest Service. The idea was subsequently dropped by the administration.
Oregon Volcanic Cascades Study: In 1968 I was approached by Mike McCloskey, Conservation Director of the Sierra Club to take on the job of organizing a campaign to renew interest in saving what was left of the old growth forests in Oregon.
How could I refuse Mike’s offer? I was more than happy to get paid for what I really loved doing as a volunteer. With Brock’s help I designed a campaign plan and I started a new organization: the Committee for the Volcanic Cascades Study (CVCS). Using Brock’s research I put together a membership brochure making the case for a federal study of the Oregon Cascades for possible future national parks and protected areas. The brochure showed the disparity in reserved acreage between Oregon (1.56%) and Washington (5.95%) and the dismal lack of commercial forest acreage reserved from cutting in Oregon (1.5%) as opposed to Washington (4.9%).
The Oregon Cascades Study Campaign was intended to build pressure on the Oregon politicians by building public awareness of what the loggers were doing to our beautiful mountains. Oregonians needed to be made aware that all was not well with in the Cascades. Because Oregon was far more dependent on the timber industry than Washington it was difficult to get our message into the press.
We did manage to persuade Senator Wayne Morse to introduce a bill calling for a study by the National Park Service of the potential for parkland in the Oregon Cascades. Senator Hatfield praised the idea in The Oregonian but would not allow hearings on the legislation. Morse did nothing, however, to support the bill despite our best efforts to convince him otherwise. The next time I was in Morse’s Washington office I asked to see the Cascades Study Bill file. The aide, not knowing any better, gave me the bill’s file folder which contained nothing but a copy of the bill. Things began to turn around the following year when Bob Packwood took Senator Morse’s seat. He proved to be much more receptive to our agenda.
In late 1969, with the help of Brock and others, I raised some money from the Sierra Club, the newly formed Oregon Environmental Council, the Save French Pete Committee, Friends of Three Sisters and the Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs to run a full-page ad in The Oregonian. The headline read: “Is it all going to be cut down while we do nothing?” The ad told how little of the Oregon old growth forests had been protected as compared to Washington’s forests. It included coupons to be mailed to Hatfield, Packwood, the Secretary of Agriculture and the CVCS. It came as no surprise that the Secretary of Agriculture was opposed to a Cascades National Park study The Oregonian editorialized that a park would conflict with multiple-use interests (meaning the forest industry). Hatfield said that public lands are not for special groups (meaning us tree lovers) and that cut-over timberland should also be looked at to determine its recreation potential. About 5 million acres in Oregon were in that category.
We subsequently learned that our study initiative conflicted with a 1962 executive order signed by President Kennedy. The executive order came about in response to a campaign our colleagues in Washington State were running to carve a North Cascades National Park out of Forest Service lands. The Department of Agriculture convinced Kennedy to sign an executive order forbidding unilateral efforts by agencies to change the jurisdiction of federal lands. The so-called Treaty of the Potomac did not, however, prohibit a joint study, which was eventually agreed to in the case of the North Cascades. When Senator Packwood took over Senator Morse’s seat in 1970 he attempted to overcome this problem with a new bill that called for a joint study by the Forest Service and the Park Service. The bill failed to get a hearing before Senator Hatfield’s Interior Committee because the timber industry, and most of the Oregon Congressional delegation, saw such a study as a major threat to their interests.
Because Oregon was a timber state, conservationists were viewed by many as a threat to the state’s economy. The Oregonian, for example, put most of “our” news on the obituary page! A wonderful example of The Oregonian’s distaste for the likes of us was displayed for all to see on its front page in 1972. We had put out a press release announcing our plans to take the Corps of Engineers to court for failing to complete an environmental impact statement before undertaking a vast dredging operation in the Columbia River. The next day The Oregonian ran a banner front page headline proclaiming: “EPA claims dredging begun illegally.” Upon reading the story there was not one mention of EPA. I called the reporter who wrote the story and inquired as to why the headline referred to EPA and not OEC? I was told that the editors could not stomach the idea of putting the OEC in such a prominent headline.
It’s hard to imagine this many years later just how toxic the business and political climate was for us. Our conservation efforts were always the target of negative editorials and stories in The Oregonian. A speech by Don Hodel, Administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration (later the Secretary of Interior), before the Portland City Club paints the political picture during those early days most clearly:
The greatest threat to the environmental movement is the environmental movement itself. Over the past several years, it has fallen into the hands of a small, arrogant faction which is dedicated to bringing our society to a halt. I call this faction the Prophets of Shortage. They are the anti-producers, the anti-achievers. The doctrine they preach is that of scarcity and self-denial…The new McCarthyism that is becoming a fad in part of our population that is impressionable sensation-seeking and uninformed constitutes a real threat.
The best conservation lobbying force in Oregon at this time was the Sierra Club. But the Club had its limitations because there was a strong dislike of “outsiders” telling Oregonians what to do. California was viewed as one would if living next to China. California was big and crowded and its people were moving to Oregon in droves, gobbling up our farmland and driving up prices. (Remember Governor McCall’s used to say: “Come to Oregon for a visit but please don’t stay here.”) I was somewhat shielded from attacks of being an outsider since my family, on both sides, came to Oregon in covered wagons in the 1848 and 1852. My great grandfather, James Shields, was a signer of the Oregon Constitution.
Post Script: Renewed interest in a national park in the Oregon Cascades has appeared in the form of a bill to be introduced into the Oregon legislature calling for the creation of a Silver Falls National Park.
The Oregon Environmental Council: Having successfully launched the Washington Environmental Council in late 1967, Brock Evans began contacting veteran conservationists based in Eugene, Bend, Salem and Portland in June 1968. He was seeking advice and support for creating an Oregon Environmental Council. Many of us realized that we needed a home-grown conservation voice. The problem was time. We were up to our necks in campaigns (i.e.: Hells Canyon, French Pete, Oregon Cascades Study, Oregon Dunes, the Minam, etc.). We felt that we had little time or energy to build a new organization. It was also clear that there were just too few of us to effectively confront all these challenges.
In calling around that state to build support for an OEC Brock got help from Cornelius Lofgren of Salem, a member of the Chemeketans. Cornelius assisted in organizing a meeting of the conservation leaders in Salem. In late September and early October 1968 I contacted key campaigners in Portland and Eugene to ask them to come to Salem to discuss the feasibility of creating an environmental council. We held our first meeting in the Chemeketans clubhouse on November 9, 1968.
The meeting went smoothly. Brock made an impassioned presentation on how much we needed an Oregon grown organization. He told of the success of the Washington Environmental Council and how it was bringing new warriors to the conservation battle. With the leadership of Maradel Gale of Eugene and Bill Ellis of Bend, it was agreed that we needed a home-grown lobbying organization that could represent our interests before the Oregon legislators and the U.S. Congress. An organizing meeting soon followed on December 7th in Salem to draft the by-laws. Following the example set by the recently created Friends of the Earth we decided not to make the OEC a tax exempt organization. The IRS rules restricting the use of tax exempt funds for lobbying purposes were very strict at that time.
We used the Washington Environmental Council model in designing the OEC. It was to be a coalition of Oregon non-profit organizations. By February 1970 thirty-one organizations had become members. (We grew to 80 organizational members and 3,000 individual members by 1974.) Our list of supporting organizations made a powerful political statement on our letterhead and in hearings. Maradel Gale, representing the Eugene Natural History Society, was elected President at the second meeting. The other founding board members were:
- Cornelius Lofgren (Chemeketans), Salem
- Bill Anderson (Oregon Wildlife Federation), Portland
- Chris Attneave (Planned Parenthood of Lane County), Eugene
- Maxine Banks (Salem Beautification Council), Salem
- Reese Bender (OSU. Fin and Antler Club), Corvallis
- Stanton Cook (Nature Conservancy), Eugene
- Bill Elllis, (Preserve our Urban and Rural Environment - PURE) Bend
- Charles Fischer (Citizens for Clean Environment), Corvallis
- Bruce Hall (Planned Parenthood Association of Oregon), Portland
- John Hammond (PSC Outdoor Club), Portland
- Holway Jones (Sierra Club), Eugene
- Frances McCarter (Chemeketans), Salem
- Richard Noyes (Sierra Club), Eugene
- Henry Rancourt (Oregon Wildlife Federation), Portland
- Michael Shannon (PURE), Bend
- Rodney Stubbs (Sierra Club) Salem
- Sandy Tepffer (Sierra Club), Eugene
- Herbert Titus (Upper Willamette Valley Anti-Pollution League), Eugene
- Larry Williams (Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs), Milwaukie
Five working committees were also established: Pollution Control, Recreation, Natural Resources, Environmental Planning and Environmental Education. Salem was chosen as the meeting place for the monthly board meetings due to its central location.
Oregon Environmental Foundation: We later establish the OEF to accept tax-exempt donations. Vern Rifer started the OEF after he became president of OEC and Bill Hutchison was VP. “As usual we were poor as a church mouse,” recalled Vern. “We discussed the fact that we didn't have a 501(c)(3) entity to attract tax deductible and foundation contributions. So we decided to divide OEC into three parts with interlocking boards. The entities and leaders as I remember were [Oregon League of Environmental Voters] OLEV (later OLCV) with me as chair and OEC with Bill as chair”
Ann Gardner (Hunt) recalled that the 501(c)(3) tax status was secured in 1971 or 1972. “Some of us crafted a letter to Governor Tom McCall, asking if he would be our honorary chair. We heard nothing from him until he came to our annual meeting [December 15, 1973] and announced his willingness to serve during his formal remarks...so together we approached him. I recall that John [Frewing] introduced me; the Governor clicked his heels together and saluted. I was blown away by his graciousness. Then the fun began. John and I went around to various organizations and asked for money...we had no fear...I had one sensible brown suit and sensible shoes.”
Our first foray for funding,” recalled John Frewing, “was to call on John Sell of First Interstate (then) in their tall building downtown. I believe he gave us $1000 for some education effort. Later the budget rose to some $250,000 one year with CETA [Comprehensive Employment and Training Act] funding for a variety of interns and an office on the top floor of Lincoln Hall at Portland State University.”
Oregon League of Environmental Voters: While our tax status allowed us to endorse candidates we decided that it would be more effective if we established the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. It was reasoned that OEC needed to maintain good relationships with all of the politicians, even if we found them less than supportive of our agenda. Vern Rifer and others took on the job of creating the Oregon League. (I helped to get it going but stayed in the background.) The name we chose, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, did not please the national League of the same name. League President Marion Edey called me to ask that we not use their name. We changed the name to the Oregon League of Environmental Voters. Several years later Marion called to ask if we would like to become a member of the LCV. We agreed.
Northwest Environmental Defense Center: The need for an organization to represent us in court was solved in 1969 with the founding of the Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC) by a group of attorneys, architects, scientists and concerned citizens. John Platt, was hired as its first executive director and Bill Hutchison, a past president of OEC, took the helm. John was an OEC board member and followed me as the next OEC Executive Director. NEDC represented OEC in a large number of cases and assisted our members in drafting legislation for the Oregon Legislature.
One major case I remember well was against a proposal to build Clackamas Town Center shopping mall in Clackamas County in violation of the land use planning laws. NEDC represented a number of environmental groups and the local neighborhood association in a claim that the county had illegally changed its comprehensive land use plan. We believed that the development would encourage urban sprawl and would violate Oregon’s agricultural land use goals. NEDC took the case to the Oregon Supreme Court. The Court agreed that the county had violated its land use plan. While the outcome did not stop the development, it did set an important precedent in the state’s land use planing law: land use plans, once agree upon, cannot be ignored by the counties.
A Turning Point: In December 1969 I was asked by the Wilderness Society to go to Washington, DC to lobby against the Timber Supply Act – another attempted raid on our national forests led by the timber industry and supported by Senator Mark Hatfield. On Saturday night of my visit I was in the old Pick Lee Hotel with tears running down my face from the tear gas that was seeping into the room from the anti-Vietnam demonstration a block away in DuPont Circle. I got a call that evening from Maradel asking if I would become the executive director of the OEC. My contract with the Sierra Club was about to run out so I was open to the offer. I did not immediately agree. I knew it was a risky proposition financially for there had never been a full-time political advocate for conservation in Oregon and I knew of OEC’s meager financial state. The job seemed risky but I accepted because it was a golden opportunity to do full-time what I had been doing as an avocation for so many years. My salary was set at $10,000 per year --all of which I had to raise somehow. (I must not have been very good at fundraising for after the second year the OEC owed me $10,000!) Funding the organization was a real problem since we could not use tax-exempt money to fund for lobbying. We needed a lot of individual members since the organizational members were not willing or able to contribute much in the way of financial support.
Upon returning from Washington I set to work on campaign planning and building our new organization into a strong champion for the environment. My first letter to The Oregonian as OEC’s executive director was published on January 25, 1970. It was in response to several letters published in The Oregonian calling French Pete Valley a “Fire Trap.”
Our first “office” was my apartment in Milwaukie. I had a small portable Royal typewriter, a card table and that was about all. Then a wonderful thing happened. People called me, seemingly out of the blue, to offer their help. To my joy and relief my old friend Janet McLennan called one day to say that the owner of the Oregon Transfer Company had offered to give us rent free a 12’ x 15’ office in his pesticide warehouse building at 1238 N.W. Glisan St.. Next, Ivan Bloch, the brother of composer Ernest Bloch, asked if I would like to have his old partner’s desk, a library table and some chairs. You bet I would! After settling into our new furnished space we held an open house. We were honored to have State Treasurer Bob Straub and his wife Pat came to our little celebration.
My biggest break came when a young woman, who had recently moved to Portland from Indiana, called to ask if I could use some clerical help. Boy could I! Judie Hansen (Irons) worked with me full time for about three years before we were able pay her a salary! If there was any one person who made my early days at OEC a success it had to be Judie. (Senator Packwood once expressed his gratitude to Judie for taking on the letter writing duties for my talents did not lie in that area.) Soon thereafter we were joined by Bill Bree and Jane Lyle who set-up a recycling switchboard using punch cards and darning needles to sort the requested information. (Talk about enterprising: several years later they got a law passed making the switchboard a function of the Department of Environmental Quality. Bill then went to work for DEQ!)
Not long after settling into our new office Doug Scott who was with The Wilderness Society in Washington, D.C came by to say hello. Doug later became the NW Representative of the Sierra Club. What I remember most about Doug was his regular calls to me during the Hells Canyon campaign. He often came up with some new brilliant (and sometime not so brilliant) suggestions on what we could do to keep the pressure on the politicians to protect the canyon. My reaction was often “Why the Hell didn’t I think of that?” (While conservation director of the Sierra Club, Doug also created the American Endangered American Wilderness Act of 1977, which realized the long sought protection of French Pete Valley.
I also recall going over a map of Crater Lake National Park with Doug on my living room floor. We sought to create new, more ecologically based boundaries for the park. The original boundaries had simply been drawn on section lines with no consideration for the areas ecological features. Doug took our proposed new boundaries, which added 22,890 acres to the park, to Senator Hatfield with the request that he incorporate them into his Crater Lake Wilderness Area bill. The new boundaries were adopted. It is gratifying to look at an Oregon map and see that the park boundaries are no longer in the shape of a box.
Campaigns, campaigns, and more campaigns! I felt that our new organization should become a major player in a number of urgent issues (fortunately the next Oregon Legislative session would not begin until 1971).
- Hells Canyon Dam proposal
- The National Forest Timber Supply Act of 1969
- Proposed Trojan nuclear power plant construction by PGE
- Returning French Pete Valley to protected status
This list is not to imply that the OEC was not already actively engaged in a multitude of other issues before I was hired. In October 1969, for example, OEC President Maradel Gale and others participated in the Willamette Valley Environmental Conference in which Gov. McCall called for statewide land-use planning legislation and an “index of livability.” Maradel arranged to have the noted land use planner Ian McHarg make a presentation. He gave a stirring speech on the absolute necessity of total area planning. This turned out to be the opening bell of our campaign to pass the nations only statewide land-use planning law. We would never have had this protection without Governor Tom McCall’s leadership.
The OEC was also a party to an appeal to stop the Forest Service from logging 16-1/2 million board feet in French Pete Valley and we were supporting the creation of a Willamette Greenway. Our French Pete appeal was rejected by the Forest Service but Sen. Packwood saved us by requesting that no action be taken until hearings were held. Gov. McCall’s leadership in the creation of a Willamette Greenway led to the removal of SW Harbor Drive and the old Journal building in downtown Portland and the creation of McCall Park.
Also, it was in the 1969 session of the Legislature that OEC members Rich Chambers and Don Waggoner got the now famous Oregon Bottle Bill first introduced. Gov. McCall responded by forming the Anti-Litter Committee (later became Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism -- SOLV). (Later, McCall would consider himself the father of the Bottle Bill. He became a key player in its eventual passage. After SOLV had lost in its effort to stop the Oregon Bottle Bill, McCall called me to his office to seek my support in having the OEC take over SOLV. I declined the offer.) The Committee launched an extensive advertising campaign opposing the bottle bill. Two years later we were much better organized. Maradel reported that the 1971 session saw the “heaviest amount of citizen participation of any session in recent history.” She later recalled that “a member of the Associated Oregon Industries publicly complained about the large numbers of citizens who were coming to Salem to present their views, and thereby threatening the very stability of the democratic process.”
Besides the Bottle Bill our members were working the 1971 legislative session on the Bike and Pedestrian Path funding bill, billboard removal legislation, field burning, vehicle emissions and authority for the Department of Environmental Quality to regulate solid waste.
In Congress members of the Council were supporting legislation to add the Minam River to the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area, to protect the Oregon Dunes, Hells Canyon and, the seemingly never ending French Pete campaign. We were also working to make sure that the Park Service’s master plan for Crater Lake did not include new construction projects on the rim of the crater.
Dams: There seemed to be an endless chain of Corps of Engineers proposals for new dams. We found these flood control projects ecologically unsound, unnecessary and economically unjustifiable. Our main targets were:
- Catherine Creek Dam above Union in northeastern Oregon
- Days Creek Dam on the South Umpqua River
- Cascadia Dam on the South Santiam River
- Elk Creek Dam in the Rogue River Basin
In the case of the Cascadia and Days Creek Dams we got Senator Packwood to ask the General Accounting Office, an arm of the Congress, to review the Corps cost-benefit justifications for the projects. As expected GAO found the Corps figures inflated and often just plain wrong! We managed to stop three out of the four projects – Elk Creek Dam was the exception.
Hells Canyon Dam, a major hydroelectric project, was a much tougher campaign. Over the past 20 years it had been the apple in the eye of every NW politician. In 1967 the formerly warring public and private utilities got together to renew their decades-long effort to dam the Snake River as it passes through the beautiful Hells Canyon -- America’s deepest gorge. This was first that the private and public utilities in the Pacific Northwest had put aside their differences in order to pursue their dream project. It was also in 1967 that Justice Douglas authored the crucial Supreme Court decision which overruled on environmental grounds the Federal Power Commission license just granted to the private companies to build a dam at in Hells Canyon. The court ruled that the value of keeping a river free flowing had to be considered in the licensing process. The ruling required the FPC to hold another hearing/trial on whether “the pubic interest” – the language in the FPC statute – would be better served by not building the dam. This Supreme Court decision bought us a critical opening to delay the FPC from issuing a license and there-by time to expand our campaign. Brock Evans immediately filed a petition to intervene in the trial. As Brock recalls how vital our intervention was. If “we had not wedged ourselves into that new trial, the good ol’boys would have just gotten together, done a phony ‘assessment,’ and would have ‘found’ that a dam was ‘needed’ – and issued a new license.” A bitter hard-fought and much publicized trial followed which did not end until 1972.
While in Washington in late 1969, Brock Evans and I met with Senator Packwood to discuss his plan to introduce a bill to establish a 700,000 acre Hells Canyon-Snake National River. Senator Packwood introduced his bill in January 1970 and Rep. John Saylor (R-PA) introduced a companion bill in the House. Thus was launched an eight-year campaign in which the OEC played a key role. The campaign proved to be daunting because no other NW politician favored the Packwood/Saylor bills. Eventually Governors Dan of Washington, Tom McCall of Oregon and Cecil Andrus of Idaho become supporters.
There were two events in the Hells Canyon Campaign that I believe were critical to the final victory. If our efforts were ever to succeed we had to get Rep. Al Ullman and Sen. Mark Hatfield on board. Ullman‘s district took in the Oregon side of Hells Canyon and Sen. Hatfield was the chairman of the Interior Committee which had jurisdiction over parklands. Both men had long been supporters of damming Hells Canyon. Hatfield had consistently refused to publicly state his position on the Packwood bill. Finally in frustration, I called Hatfield’s top staff person Gerry Frank to complain of the Senator’s continued resistance to supporting the protection of Hells Canyon. Frank told me that he did not believe that his boss would ever go against the power boys; after all, he reported, the Senator played golf almost every weekend with one of the dam’s biggest supporters, Idaho Senator Len Jordan.
Enough of Hatfield’s continuing intransigence. With what Frank had told me I put out a press release (after faxing an advance copy to Hatfield) reporting that Hatfield was committed to damming Hells Canyon. That brought down the roof! Hatfield called our office breathing fire! Luckily, I was out at the time so Judie took the full brunt of Hatfield’s wrath. However, I soon heard from his staff. “How could you do this to us, Larry?” Fortunately this high risk gambit did the trick. Shortly thereafter, Hatfield announced his support for saving Hells Canyon.
We still needed to bring Rep. Al Ullman into our camp. That proved to be easier after Hatfield joined us. However, upon announcing his support for saving Hells Canyon he and Senator Hatfield jointly introduced the Hells Canyon National Forest Parkland Area bill. It was immediately clear that the Forest Service had drafted the bill. It was awful! While accomplishing our major goal of forbidding dam construction in the canyon it would also give the Forest Service almost complete freedom to manage the land as they pleased. Logging, grazing and road building would continue unabated. We had to somehow get Ullman and Hatfield to support a better bill. Hatfield and Packwood did not get along so simply supporting Packwood’s legislation was out of the question. In desperation I sent a letter to Rep. Ullman saying that while we very much appreciated his support for protecting Hells Canyon we found his bill completely unacceptable. The letter contained a section-by-section analysis of the bill and why we were so troubled by it.
The Hells Canyon Preservation Council in Idaho was, to put it mildly, not pleased with my letter. They feared that we had upended the apple cart. I thought I knew Ullman well enough to gauge that he could be moved in our direction with a little bluster from us. During my next visit to Washington, D.C. I had the opportunity to gauge Ullman’s reaction to my letter first hand. I met him in his palatial office in the Rayburn building overlooking the U.S. Capitol. At first we had an amicable meeting, going over all the pressing conservation issues of the day, until I raised the Hells Canyon legislation problem. In response he immediately arose from his desk and proceed to dash out of his office saying to me over his shoulder as he slammed the door behind him, “You’d better learn how to be more political!” Shortly thereafter he and Hatfield introduced a new and much better bill. Would I have taken such leaps of faith into the political void in today’s world? Probably not. Maybe I was just lucky, but I like to believe it was more than just luck.
Freeways: Freeways were cutting the heart out of cities across the nation. They divided and destroyed the fabric of neighborhoods. The Portland City Council decided to counter this trend. With the leadership of Mayor Neil Goldschmidt the Council voted to kill the planned Mt. Hood Freeway which would have cut through NE Portland and instead apply the funds to a new light rail system. The U.S. Department of Transportation was none to eager to waste good highway money on mass transit even though the law provided for such a switch. There was a protracted struggle insured between the City and DOT. The OEC went to court as least once to protect the City Council’s decision to kill the freeway plans.
We also got involved in a proposed extension of the I-405 freeway through NW Portland. The Oregon Department of Transportation wanted the freeway to go through an established working class neighborhood connecting to NW Yeon Avenue (Route 30). The OEC joined folks living in the path of the freeway to argue that the cheapest route was not the best one. We succeeded in saving the homes of hundreds of working class families.
Trojan Nuclear Power Plant: In January 1968 PGE formally announced that it intended to build a nuclear power plant near St. Helens on the Columbia River. This was not the first such proposed plant. The Eugene Water and Electric Board proposed in 1968 to build a plant within 15 miles of Eugene. This proposal caused citizens to start researching the environmental impacts of nuclear power. The November 1969 OEC newsletter published two articles on the environmental problems with nuclear power. However, taking on Trojan was not a small matter for the Council. The board, however, having already learned about the potential environmental problems associated with nuclear power plants, did not want to sit back and let Trojan go forward without a fight.
In January 1970 we issued a press statement calling for immediate public hearings on the proposed plant. (The board also passed a resolution opposing a nuclear waste dump in Eastern Oregon.) We were fortunate to receive the services of John Haugh, a Portland attorney, to represent us. Little did we know just how much an effort the Trojan campaign would be. The campaign lasted until January 1973 when PGE finally agreed to our demands. We soon learned that the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) would not allow us to oppose the plant on many of the health and safety issues that we thought were critical. This removed some of our major concerns from contention, including the long-term disposal of the nuclear waste. Without those issues we focused on the chemicals that would be discharged from the cooling tower to keep algae under control and, more importantly, the possible siting of the plant on a fault line. With the assistance of the Oregon Steelheaders we soon got PGE to put in a water filtration system to deal with the water pollution problem.
That left us with one major issue upon which to challenge the plant: Is there a fault line where the Columbia River makes a dramatic turn north where the plant was to be built? A geology professor at Portland State College helped us with this issue. He found a map published by the U.S. Geological Survey indicating that there was likely a concealed fault running through the river next to the plant site. Amazingly, the Commission ignored our concerns and refused to require any geological studies to investigate this possibility.
I have two major memories of the fight. One was the realization that the OEC, with our attorney John Haugh, was to be the principal intervenor in the AEC hearing in St. Helens. After the general public got a chance to express its concerns, the rest of the hearing depended on us to raise our concern. It fell to Judie Hansen and me to put together the issue book that John Haugh would use to present our issues to a huge phalanx of PGE and AEC attorneys. As long as we could come up with relevant issues to bring before the Commission the hearing would continue. My recollection is that the hearing lasted three days. In preparation I called the most outspoken opponent of nuclear power, Pulitzer Prize winner and native Oregonian, Linus Pauling. He told me he was sorry but he was too busy to come to Oregon. At Dr. Pauling suggestion, we brought in Dr. John Gofman, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology in the University of California at Berkeley and author of “Population Control Through Nuclear Pollution.” to testify for us on the hazards of radiation.
The other event was my visit to the Saul Alinsky Institute in Chicago to get some organizing suggestions that would help us in our Trojan campaign. As a result I initiated a plan around the next PGE Board of Directors meeting. This meeting would be a perfect opportunity for directors of PGE to hear directly from the public. The problem was that this meeting would only be open to stockholders. To get around this, I found a member of OEC who owned stock in PGE and was willing to let us distribute her shares for the purposes of this meeting. We then published an ad in The Oregonian offering one share of PGE stock to anyone who wanted to attend the annual meeting and express views about Trojan. Several hundred people responded to the ad. We passed out form letters with a share number at the top signed by the shareholder.
There was a strong possibility that PGE might refuse to accept the letters. We had to have a back-up plan in case we were denied access to the meeting. We obtained a demonstration permit from the police for that day and recruited a band for the occasion. We parked the flatbed truck at the entrance of the meeting place to provide a stage for the band and the speeches that were sure to come. If the public was blocked from attending the meeting we had a very visible (and noisy) rally ready to go. More importantly, we had something for the TV cameras to film for the evening news. As it turned out PGE was smart enough not to block public participation in the meeting. The directors dutifully heard from everyone who wished to speak. Those who showed up without a share of stock had the entertainment and microphones outside to allow them to express their views for the TV cameras. Everyone except the PGE folks had a wonderful time.
Feelings were running strong against Trojan. The Oregon Senate Environmental Affairs Committee held a public hearing early in 1971 on the proposal. The crowd was so large that proceedings had to be moved to larger quarters. But even with all the negative publicity PGE adamantly refused to examine the geology of the site. We were sure it was a major violation of AEC regulations to issue a permit for Trojan without a through geological examination. So, we asked John Haugh to file a lawsuit on our behalf. John was ready to take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if needed. PGE, realizing that a legal fight could be long and drawn out, finally agreed to undertake the geological studies we were demanding with our geology expert overseeing their work. Much to our disappointment the studies did not reveal a fault under the river near the plant. This finding left us with no further legal or administrative grounds to oppose the construction of the plant. The OEC board voted to cease further efforts with regard to Trojan. Despite the public opposition Trojan was eventually built. It was not an economical investment for PGE due to the abundance of cheap hydroelectric power in the NW. It closed in January 1993.
Trojan was not our only quarrel with PGE at the time. In 1973 we tangled with the company over the construction of a 220 megawatt turbine generating plant located near Linnton on the Willamette River below Portland and their proposed new office building in downtown Portland. Besides OEC, opposition to the “Harborton” facility included the Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC), North Portland Citizens Committee and the Committee for the Conservation of Energy. Our objections concerned air pollution and noise. In my testimony before the Columbia Willamette Air Pollution Authority I reported that PGE was proceeding with construction without building permits. The commission was astonished. That same day the city stopped the construction. NEDC also sued PGE on our behalf claiming that their proposed office building in downtown Portland was not in compliance with the downtown comprehensive plan. In both cases PGE won.
Portland Airport Expansion: In 1969 The Port of Portland Commission announced plans for a $170 million airport expansion which included a new 10,000-foot runway. The new runway would require filling a square mile of the Columbia River. The Port claimed that the expansion was needed to allow for equal lateral, simultaneous landings and take-offs. More to the point the Portland business community wanted this expansion so it could better compete with the Port of Seattle. OEC joined with Dr. Carl Pederson’s Citizen’s Committee for the Columbia River in challenging this plan on the basis that such a fill would irreversibly damage the river. Since no EIS had been prepared we obtained the volunteer services of Marvin Durning, a Washington attorney, to go to court. Our opposition infuriated the Portland business establishment. As I recall The Oregonian was especially outspoken, calling us anti-growth and anti-business. Port Commissioner Borden Beck, an old-guard Oregon conservationist, even called Brock and me into his office to threaten us that The Port would move the airport to St. Paul if we did not back off. Despite the pressure we were under from all sides we held firm and the Port Commission eventually agreed to prepare an EIS.
In February 1973 however, the Port Commission became so desperate to move ahead with its plans that it announced that it was going to resume dredging for the runway expansion prior to the completion of the EIS. In addition, the Port also announced that it intended to by-pass approval of its application for federal funding through the Columbia Region Association of Governments. The decision to proceed with dredging violated NEPA and their agreement with us not to proceed with the expansion until the last order was signed in the last court. That move was not well received even in the business community. A few months later, after the EIS was released, the Commission realized that such a massive landfill in the Columbia River was not going to get through the environmental approval process and, in addition, public opinion was beginning to turn against them. The Port announced that the Columbia River fill was no longer on the table. Instead the Port opted to upgrade their existing runway.
Those Wonderful Volunteers: In 1972 we moved our headquarters to Bill Nordstrom’s unused office space at Wy’east Color on SW Corbett Ave. The following year we found a wonderful house to rent at 2637 SW Water Ave. With our new expanded quarters our cadre of volunteers just kept growing. To name a few: landscape architect Martin Davis; economist Mike Moody; membership bookkeeping, Babs Wilson and my mother Catherine; Gay Bower, Judie Hansen’s right hand in keeping the paper flowing; John Neilson, OEC lobbyists (our only other paid staff person) and Maggie Collins; bookkeeper Alice Butler; and my father who took care of the property. But that was not all; working upstairs was the staff of the Portland Group of the Sierra Club and the recycling switchboard. The place was humming day and night. I am sure we had at least a dozen others who were in the office on a regular basis. I can think of Russ Jolley who focused on plants in the Columbia Gorge and Earl Sandvig, a retired forester, who wrote a regular column for the newsletter called “Reading the Land” on the environmental impacts of grazing; and Al Miller who pitched in wherever he was needed. Special mention must be given to Catherine Johnson, who for four years was our volunteer newsletter editor. In going over those old issues of Earthwatch Oregon I am struck by how lively a publication she put together every month. Her mix of humor and interesting graphics along with well written articles made this hard hitting publication fun to read. Much to our sorrow, Catherine died at a very young age of bone cancer.
In 1977 a woman came into my office looking for advice on how to find an environmental job in Oregon. Her name was Patti Pride and she would become my wife the very next year. Patti was the legislative director of the EPA. What with the change of administrations in Washington (Jimmy Carter was recently elected) she felt it was time to move back home to Oregon. I am not sure I was much help in finding her a job the rest is history. She soon landed a job as Multnomah County Commissioner Mel Gordon’s assistant. Judie Hanson left OEC to become her assistant some months later, replacing a former NW Representative of the Sierra Club, Roger Mellem (small world!). I then had another stroke of luck when Andy Hunter (Hyslop) took over as our administrative assistant.
In late 1978 I learned that there was a job opening at the President’s Council on Environmental Quality in Washington. The job was policy advisor on public lands. With the help of Doug Scott and Mike McCloskey I landed that job. Patti was eager to move back to Washington where the job market was more suited to her skills. I fondly remember the wonderful going away party my friends at OEC gave at the Nordstrom’s home. Patti and I got married that afternoon so the party had a double meaning for us. We were honored to have both Gov. McCall and State Treasure Straub attend. They were not talking to one another at the time so Tom held forth on the main floor and Bob the lower floor. Two days later we were off to Washington.
I should note that this was not my first job offer while I was OEC Executive Director. When Brock Evans left Seattle to become Director of the Club’s Washington Office in 1973 he asked if I would be interested in applying for his job. I thought that I was still needed at the OEC during its formative years and turned down the opportunity. I was next approached by David Brower, who was then Executive Director of Friends of the Earth. He asked if I would be interested in becoming conservation director for FOE. I was aware of David’s reputation as a difficult manager and turned down that opportunity. Around 1974 I got a third job offer which I could not turn down. It came from Mike McCloskey, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club. He wanted me to become the Sierra Club’s conservation director (or a job akin to it since Mike held both titles at that time). I immediately agreed. However, the next day he called to say that he was withdrawing the offer for he had been forced by his board to hire Paul Swatek, a board member, to fill the position. I have often wondered what my conservation career would have been like if I had taken any of these positions. Looking back, I would not change a thing.
Council on Environmental Quality: CEQ turned out to be a wonderful place to work with a group of highly skilled environmentalists. However, when I reported in on my first day of work expecting to be welcomed with open arms, I was asked by the staff director who in the Hell I was. I told him that Chairman Charles Warren had hired me. He had never been told. Not the best start on a new job. I was given responsibility for oversight of the federal land management agencies. That meant I would be involved in the Alaska Lands Legislation, the RARE II wilderness study and the many other land management issues of the day.
Bonneville Power: In July 1979 the “Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act” was before Congress. As it turned out the energy specialists at CEQ did not want to deal with this because they were dealing with too many other important matters. So, given my background in dealing with Bonneville over the years, I volunteered to see what I could do. During that time Bonneville was hell-bent to build a flock of nuclear power plants with no regard for energy conservation. BPA Administrator, Don Hodel, claimed that “…in the next 20 years the firm energy requirements of the Pacific Northwest will more than double – from about 15 million to 30 million kilowatts. More than 90 percent of this added energy must come from thermal generation.”
In spite of this dire prediction BPA was determined to sign a contract with AMEX Aluminum to build a plant that would gobble up huge quantities of power at an extremely low price. OEC and others had successfully sued BPA over their failure to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement prior to signing the AMEX contract. Bonneville countered that it could do nothing about energy conservation because the organic act called for it to produce the most power and the least cost.
In September 1974 NW conservation groups (including OEC and Sierra Club) made an effort to modernize BPA’s 1937 statutory mandate which required BPA “to encourage the widest possible use of all electric energy that can be generated and marketed.” We sought to amend this language “to encourage the conservation and wise use” of electric power. Despite the fact that we gained the support of Washington Governor Evans and Oregon Governor McCall the effort failed.
I had been given a golden opportunity to renew our fight to bring energy conservation to BPA. I proceeded by contacting Jim Blomquist, who was then the NW Representative of the Sierra Club. Jim was a leader in the 1974 effort. With his help we drafted an energy conservation amendment to the Bonneville Power Administration’s organic act. I gave our proposed amendment to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and found them an easy sell. With the administration’s support the Chair of the Senate Interior Committee, Mark Hatfield, incorporated the language into the committee bill. Bonneville’s staff was told by OMB not to oppose the amendment but they lobbied strenuously against it just the same. Our amendment passed. The ironic twist was that I had to draft a memo for the Chairman of CEQ urging the President to veto the bill because of its many deficiencies. Despite CEQ’s opposition, the bill became law. Bonneville was finally required to build energy conservation into it operating plans.
The Allowable Cut and RARE II: The Forest Service had long claimed that their massive public timber sales were cost effective. As far as I could tell these claims could not be proven, so the public was subsidizing a large proportion of these sales. The Forest Service had steadfastly refused to release their cost analysis. In an effort to resolve this question, I suggested to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) they ask the Forest Service to justify their cost benefit claims. Finally, I thought, we have the Forest Service where we want them. We are going to get the real figures on what I believe were heavily subsidized timber sales! The Forest Service would not dare defy a White House request for answers on this important matter. The OMB staffer responsible for the Forest Service’s budget called John McGuire, Chief of the Forest Service to his office to discuss the matter. Upon hearing the subject of our inquiry McGuire stood up and walked out of the room without saying a word. As far as I know the Forest Service was never required by OMB to provide a cost-benefit analysis to justify their logging program.
Part of the reason for this might have been that at this time members of the Carter Administration were trying to build a case that rising housing prices could be controlled by increasing the allowable timber cut on the public lands. I drafted a memo for CEQ Chairman Charles Warren to send to the White House chief of staff, Stu Eizenstat. The memo pointed out that the wood in a new home represented only three percent of the total cost of the home. Increasing the allowable cut, therefore, would have little or no effect on the cost of housing. In addition, such an order would violate NEPA and would be inconsistent with the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act. Letters of protest to increasing the allowable cut from Oregon Rep. Jim Weaver and Sierra Club Executive Director Mike McCloskey were attached to the memo. The logic of our case had little impact. The timber industry was successful in getting an order from the President to increase timber cut, but in reality it had little real impact on the rate of logging on the public lands in the west due to the long planning process. The real issue was not fighting inflation but rather the administration was responding to the timber industries’ desire to quicken the pace of logging on the public lands.
The Alaska Lands Act legislation and the second Roadless Area Review and Evaluation (RARE II) by the Forest Service were also before the Administration. While CEQ was not a major player on the Alaska bill because there were so many heavyweights on the field, we did, however, have a role in the RARE II Wilderness review. After the Forest Service made its recommendations to the President for Wilderness additions under the RARE II study, I identified (with the help of the Sierra Club’s Washington Wilderness expert Tim Mahoney) additional areas that deserved protection. The CEQ recommendations were based on the level of public support each area received during the national hearing. Council member Jane Yarn sent the Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, Rupert Cutler, our recommended wilderness additions that were left off the Forest Service list. For the record the following northwest wilderness additions were recommended by CEQ. In Oregon: the North Fork of the John Day (9,735 acres), Badger Creek, Kalimiopsis (124,793 acres), Middle Santiam (24,500 acres) and Kangaroo and The Red Buttes (40,500 acres). In Washington we recommended Clearwater (24,400 acres), Mt Baker (275,000 acres) and Glacier Peak (59,755 acres). The Dept. of Agriculture held firm to its original list.
Side note: Shortly after President Carter was elected I was having lunch near the Lloyd Center in Portland. We discussed possible nominees for the import position of Assistant Secretary of Agriculture over the Forest Service. Doug came up with what he believed to be the perfect person for the job: Rupert Cutler. Dr. Cutler seemed like the perfect choice, he had been active in the Wildness Society and had a strong conservation and forestry background. Doug rushed out of the restaurant to a red British phone box outside the front door and called Rupert to urge him to seek the job. Rupert was excited with the possibility and began lobbying for the position by first calling Rep. Jim Weaver (D-OR). With Rep. Weaver’s guidance he got the job. The irony here is that Rupert refused to override the Forest Service’s instance in accepting additional worthy additions to the Wilderness System. So much for having friends in high places.
I then drafted a memo to be incorporated into a decision memo for the President that OMB was preparing on RARE II. CEQ and EPA urged the President to protect “an additional 1.96 million acres of wilderness or 13 percent more than the 15.4 million” recommended by the RARE II study. Much to our disappointment President Carter chose OMB’s recommendation to support the Forest Service’s acreage.
I was pleased to see The Oregonian’s editorial: “Only medium RARE” in response to the President’s decision. The paper called Carter’s action “…a half-done wilderness, inadequate for future generations it must serve.” The Christian Science Monitor was even more outspoken: “President Carter could have been remembered for making a new kind of Louisiana Purchase for his country. Instead he will be remembered for what a leading conservation organization places ‘among the most negative decisions in the history of public land management.’”
Given the importance of Carter’s decision it is probably worth examining why our option was not selected. In reviewing OMB’s presidential decision memo (I have an undated draft) one can understand why Carter went with OMB’s recommendation to support Agriculture’s proposal without additions. OMB reported, for example, that Agriculture’s proposal: “has been generally received as a good and soundly based recommendation….Efforts have been made to make quality additions to the wilderness system and to avoid serious reductions in the potential for other important uses such as oil and gas development in the Rocky Mountain overthrust belt, timber resources in critical supply short regions and locales…” OMB claimed that the proposal had been “fine tuned” through “an intensive interagency review…” In fact, not one of our recommend additions was accepted by Agriculture and OMB. Nine agencies lined-up in support of Agriculture’s proposal. DOE had its own option in the decision paper, proposing that about 1.3 million acres be left available for oil and gas exploration. Only CEQ and EPA were in support of expanding the number of wilderness areas. Unbeknown to us at the time, OMB editorialized against our position in the decision memo within our option! OMB wrote that there was a reason the areas recommended by EPA and CEQ were not included in Agriculture’s proposal. It was because of “the dependence of local communities, the fact that they were in timber short areas, [and] the determined opposition of the Congressional delegation…” Thus OMB insured that the President got the message that only their option was the appropriate one to choose. I can only conclude that the President was sandbagged by OMB.
After President Reagan took office he immediately set out to eliminate the Council on Environmental Quality. However, because CEQ was established as an act of Congress (in the Nixon Administration no less) he did not have the authority to kill the agency. So alternatively, he fired the entire staff. Shortly after Reagan arrived, I recall an incident where a senior person at the Environmental Protection Agency was severally reprimanded for having a copy of CEQ’s Annual Report on her desk. This was not an administration where I wanted to work.
Sierra Club: I was fortunate in quickly landing a job at the Washington Legislative Office of the Sierra Club. I was first assigned to lobby the appropriations committees to oppose Reagan’s budget cuts for EPA and the natural resource agencies. Lobbying the appropriations committees turned out to be the toughest job I ever undertook. These committees are designed to be lobby proof, unless, of course, you can donate large quantities of money to the member’s re-election campaigns. I caused such a stir over the Democratic controlled House supporting a cut to EPA’s funding that Speaker Tim O’Neil paid a personal visit to Appropriations Subcommittee chairman Boland to urge him to reinstate EPA’s funding. Since they used to room together O’Neil felt he had a good chance of changing Boland’s mind on this matter. However, Boland told O’Neil that it was none of his business and he did not appreciate the Speaker nosing around in his committee’s affairs!
Failing that effort I worked with Rep. Tim Wirth’s on a floor amendment to override the Appropriations Committee’s proposed cuts to EPA’s budget. Amazingly Wirth’s amendment passed the full House. Members rarely voted against the Appropriations Committee bills because of fear of retribution to their funding requests. The win, however, was quickly dismissed by the Joint Conference Committee. I then began work on the reauthorization of the Clean Water Act of 1983-4 and soon thereafter became chair of the environmental coalition. Over the strong objections of the state water and sewer authorities, we managed to secure a requirement eliminating combined sewer run-off. Reagan vetoed the bill but his veto was over-ridden.
Clean Water Act Re-authorization: I then began work on the reauthorization of the Clean Water Act of 1983-’84. I soon became chair of the Clean Water Coalition, composed of national and regional environmental organizations. Over the strong objections of the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators (ASIWPCA) we managed to secure three major victories -- a requirement eliminating combined sewer run-off and a provision which made it illegal to allow a water quality to backslide in rivers after a major reduction in discharge such as through a plant closures. This provision was referred to as the “Anti-backsliding Amendment.” A third provision toughened the protection of the nation’s wetlands.
The environmentalists had already been hard at work. The three provisions were in the House Public Works & Transportation subcommittee’s bill. The environmentalists obtained large group of bill co-sponsors. The co-sponsors included the chair of the House Public Works & Transportation Committee, James Howard (D-NJ), and the subcommittee chair, Robert Roe (D-NJ).
To our great disappointment and outrage, when the sub-committee marked-up the bill the environmental provisions were quickly removed and weakening language supported by the ASIWPCA and others was inserted. The resulting bill would have allowed our waterways to become dirtier than under the current law. We were thunderstruck by the blatant pandering to the state authorities which did not want to spend any money on improving water quality or risk offending corporate interests in their states. We quickly labeled the legislation the “Dirty Water Bill.” Reps. Roe and Howard were equally outraged that we had the audacity to criticize the subcommittee’s bill. They traveled the country criticizing the environmentalists as being an unreasonable and uninformed lot.
In response to the subcommittee’s action we appealed to House Speaker Tip O’Neil. We pointed out how embarrassing it would be for the Democratic controlled House to support legislation that would weaken the current law. The Speaker responded by ordering Rep. Roe to reinstate the environmental provisions and jettison the provisions that would weaken current law. He also ordered Howard and Roe not to make any additional changes without the approval of the Clean Water Coalition. As the Chair of the Coalition I found myself in the very strange position of having the final say on any proposed amendments to the Clean Water Reauthorization Bill. This arrangement required Chairman Roe to call me, often at home, anytime he felt a change was required to the legislation. It also resulted in long and tedious meetings with him in his office -- sometimes into the night. At the joint House and Senate conference committee meeting Reps. Howard and Roe were desperate to eliminate the wetlands measure. In response to their insistence Senator Stafford (Chair of the Senate Environment Committee) declared that he would rather see that bill die than remove this provision. The bill passed the Congress at the end of the 1984 session with our provisions intact but was vetoed by President Reagan. His veto was quickly over-ridden by the new Congress.
Post Script: In Washington DC we are only now seeing the response to the requirement for municipalities to separate their storm water run-off from their sewage systems. Like most sewage treatment systems they get overwhelmed when a major storm hits. The resulting flood of water into the Washington’s storm drains overwhelms the capacity of the sewage treatment facility resulting in the release of raw sewage into the Potomac River. The city is currently constructing catch basins to contain the excess sewage and storm water until it can be treated.
The International Program: After the Club’s Executive Director Mike McCloskey moved the International Program from New York City to Washington, D.C. in 1985 I was given the task of building a new program that would better connect with the Club’s membership. The job came with no staff, budget or pre-ordained program (except for Population). I decided to put the Club to work on reforming the lending practices of the World Bank and the other multilateral development banks (MDB’s). These institutions have a massive environmental and social impact in the developing world. The World Bank was ill-prepared to address such issues for it had only one environmentalist on its staff of thousands. The International Program eventually grew to include four campaigns; MDB Lending Reform, International Population (already a standing committee of the Club’s), Trade and the Environment and Human Rights and the Environment.
As chief lobbyist for the MDB Campaign I worked with newly elected Rep. Nancy Pelosi to pass legislation requiring the banks to prepare environmental assessments on their proposed projects that would have a major impact on the environment. The law required a 120-day public comment period in exchange for the U.S. vote in support of the project. Even though she was a new member of Congress she was a very skilled legislator who had done many fund-raising favors for key members. This 1998 law brought the practice of writing environmental assessments to the developing world. Most importantly it brought the environmental agencies and the public into the decision-making process. I drafted three other initiatives during this time that also became law:
- The Early Warning System law, passed in 1987, requires Treasury to work with the Agency for International Development (AID), State and EPA in evaluating the social and environmental impacts of MDB projects well before they come before the Board of Executive Directors of the MDB’s. It also required the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with USAID and the Department of State to submit an annual report to Congress outlining projects of the MDB’s which may violate social and environmental standards.
- The second law, passed in 1990, made non-governmental organizations the direct recipients of the environmental trust funds in the Enterprise of the Americas law which allows the interest on the debt owed to the US Government by Latin American countries to be paid into these local, grassroots-managed funds.
- The third initiative, passed in 1986, placed a permanent earmark in AID’s budget requiring at least 3 percent of their budget be spent on the protection of biodiversity in the developing world. AID vigorously fought this earmark, but after enactment it became so popular with the staff that the agency now spends considerably more than that on the environment. I also co-authored a book on the MDB’s with University of Oregon economics professor Raymond Mikesell.
Another Small World Story: It is ironic that OEC’s current executive director, Andrea Durbin, was the Director of Friends of the Earth’s International Program at the time I was the Sierra Club’s International Program Director. She was a very energetic and creative lobbyist for FOE. Among her many accomplishments was the establishment of the Inspection Panels for the development banks. Her husband, John Audley, met Andrea while he was my Trade and Environment Campaigner. A small world indeed!
In my capacity as Director of International Programs I had the opportunity of travel to many parts of the world. One thing I always looked for was to see if the soda cans had non-detachable pull-tabs. Most people do not know, or remember, that the Oregon Bottle Bill contained a provision outlawing detachable pull-tabs. One could not have dreamed at the time that this provision, drafted by two OEC activists, would circle the globe! I only encountered detachable pull-tabs in two countries. What a wonderful example it is of the impact of citizen activism. Today’s OEC members should be proud of their organization’s continuing contribution to protect the environment.
I retired from the Sierra Club 1998 but I am still active with the Club. I have been Chair of the International Committee and am now Chair of the U.S. and Canada International Committee. In 2004 I spent four months in the Philippines as chair of an Asian Development Bank inspection panel examining a development project in Pakistan. So the beat goes on…