No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, legislators are scared of hunters and anglers. Ask Oregon State Representative Ben Canon of District 46.
“I am a politician and I am scared of sportsmen,” Canon said to an audience of Oregon hunters and anglers at Bridgeport Brewery last weekend. “I am glad these groups are getting active around global warming. Personally, as a legislator, father and teacher — this issue is more important than any other. It’s the one that keeps me up at night.”
On Saturday, July 21 the Northwest Steelheaders and the National Wildlife Federation held a conference to train hunters and anglers on the devastating effects climate change will have on Oregon wildlife.
Scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say we must reduce carbon dioxide emissions 2% per year through 2050. We need to have a political decision to achieve that. It’s time for sportsmen and to get past the politics and support state and federal legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
So what can we in Oregon do when there is such a global problem? According to Canon, it’s up to Oregon to create a model — a path to success. Additionally, getting Oregon onboard would put pressure on the federal Congress. “When Washington DC acts, China and India will act as well. We have a chance to trigger significant change,” Canon said.
Part I of Canon’s plan is to pass a bill to make sure utilities use 25% renewable power by 2020. Why is this important? Most of Oregon’s power comes from two sources — hydro and the other 40% comes from coal fired power plants. According to Canon, there is only one coal plant in Oregon, the rest is purchased from the Rocky Mountain states. Coal fired power plants are a significant contributor to global warming. This bill would force utilities to invest in wind, solar, and new technologies like geothermal, biomass and wave energy.
Canon said Oregon is behind California and Washington on state level climate change protections. One significant bill that Washington and California have passed is shutting the door to new coal fired power plants. Canon wants to pass a bill shutting down Oregon’s eastern boundary to development of more coal fired power. Canon said PacifiCorp in particular is thinking of building more plants.
Part II of Canon’s plan is to support a bill that makes permanent, Governor Kulongoski’s target for greenhouse gas emissions. 10% by 2020 and 75% by 2050.
The gloom and doom for Oregon:
Fisheries: Global Warming is causing more rain in the Cascades (less snow). Because of that extra liquid precipitation, the average snow pack has been shrinking by 30-60% since the 1950s. The Cascades are the lifeblood of our coldwater streams in the Pacific Northwest. On Mt. Hood, Sandy Glacier (source of the world-class steelhead fishery, Sandy River) has decreased by 50% in the last 50 years.
Steelhead and salmon need cold, reliable flows to survive — fish that are already fighting extinction from extensive dam systems. The hydro system is not going away in the foreseeable future. Climate change is going to be an accelerant on all of the problems these fish already face.
Recent average August/Sept Columbia River temperatures were 68-71F. In coldwater species, 70F increases fish stress. 75F is lethal. According to the IPCC, stream water will increase in temp 2.2-4.9 F, making 25-38% of coldwater habitat unsuitable.
Waterfowl: If sea levels rise as predicted (11.2 inches by 2050), huge sections of fragile coastal habitat along waterfowl’s Pacific Flyway will be altered and/or eliminated.
For Oregon duck hunters, ecosystems will be transformed in areas like Netarts Bay, Tillamook Bay, Nehalem Bay, Siletz Bay, Ankeny Wildlife Sanctuary and Garibaldi. Inland and tidal fresh water marshes are particularly vulnerable to a rise in saltwater. And extensive areas of estuarine beach will become tidal flat or open water.
It’s not just Oregon. Waterfowl are being affected across the country. The prairie pothole region is drying up due global warming. Another problem is called short-stopping — migrating waterfowl are staying north.
Forest effects: Mountain Pine Beetle — a species that forests historically have endured, is having a larger impact. As winters become less severe, more pine beetles survive and spread. Infestations become more frequent and reach epidemic levels, creating a snowball effect. And more dead trees point to…
…Increased catastrophic forest fires. While there are a number of reasons for increased forest fire activity and intensity, in large part due to poor forestry practices beyond the scope of this discussion, there is evidence that points to global climate change as a accelerant on catastrophic forest fire conditions.
Invasive species and climate change: How is climate change going to affect eastern Oregon? For one, it benefits cheatgrass an imported species wiping out the endemic Eastern Oregon botany — food for mule deer and elk. Global warming favors invasive species which out-compete native plants and animals, further pushing fragile ecosystems to the brink.
So what can you do? For suggestions, check out the NWF’s site on reducing your carbon footprint. There are lots of ways to reduce your personal global warming impact.
My suggestion (Not necessarily NWF’s position): Stay away from carbon credits, a system of paying penitence for consuming fossil fuels by paying fly-by-night companies to plant trees in your name. We’re not going to plant our way out of this problem.
The biggest impact you can have is to lobby your local and federal legislators. Bring the issue to the attention of your hunting and angling groups and put it on your agendas. Learn to give the NWF’s presentation on climate change or invite someone to present it to your group.
If the scientists are wrong, we invested our resources into preserving our wildlife for future generations and left the planet in better shape than when we inherited it. If they are right, and we do nothing, we will lose everything.
The biggest way for hunters and anglers to affect change is to lobby legislators. I have been a hunter for over 20 years, and I say we cannot keep our heads in the sand; it’s time for a state and federal global warming policy.