District 3 candidate forum focuses on environment

For Southern Oregonians, our beautiful environment, forests, waters, mountains, and meadows are among the major benefits that either attracted us, or keep us, here. We cherish opportunities to ski, hike, bike, boat, fish, hunt, camp, photograph, drink the water, breath the air, or just hang out. For many, this precious environment is our greatest treasure. But humans and nature present challenges to the environment we value. We wonder what our next Senator will do to address these challenges.

Anyone paying attention to regional climate knows that, like the rest of the planet, we are getting hotter. We also know that rainfall patterns are changing and snowpack is declining, trends which pose a serious threat to soil moisture — adding to the wildfire risk — and likely will present us paradoxically with flooding, droughts, and water shortages in the future. Agriculture, forestry and fisheries will likely suffer most. While Oregon’s contribution to the global climate pollution output is small, can we really expect other jurisdictions to protect our state and nation from the ravages of climate change if we fail to do our part to reduce pollution? What will our future senator do to put Oregon on a path to climate pollution sanity?

If you’ve lived here a few years, you know that risk of wildfire in our forests is perennial. In addition, recreational opportunities in our forests are compromised by forest management that seems, all too often, to turn our stunning forests to devastation from destructive logging practices. While there are clearly differences in how private versus public state and federal forests are managed, we know that fire is an integral component in our system. We know fire is required for maintaining healthy, resilient forests, but not so many of us know that what seemed an atrocious fire season in 2017 was probably consistent with what the region experienced before fire suppression. We also know that smoke from fire is a health hazard. How will our next senator promote science-based forest management?

Both the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export facility and Pacific Connector Natural Gas Pipeline projects are opposed by land-owning conservatives, progressives and environmentalists alike. These projects pose substantial threats to our waterways and forests, to statewide efforts to reduce climate pollution, and — via eminent domain — to the property rights of landowners. While providing major benefit to a Canadian company, this all comes with only minor local economic benefit that would be better met through investment in renewable energy. What will our next senator do?

One of the most serious threats we face comes from the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Seismologists warn that we are long overdue for a severe earthquake. But the question is: how ready are residents and our state’s emergency preparedness systems for what many experts consider virtually inevitable? And what will our next state senator do to help us and the state prepare?

Many Southern Oregonians enjoy the recreational opportunities offered by the public lands we own. We also value the amazing biodiversity that these unique lands support. Yet our public lands are under threat from a federal government that is committed to undermining their protection for private gain. Where will our next senator stand?

While many of us accept the rational decision to legalize marijuana, the burgeoning number of grows in Jackson County poses great threats because of extensive water use, substantial pesticides use, and the energy consumption associated with illuminating the crops. Will our next senator address this problem?

The extensive use and release of toxic chemicals into our environment, whether through pesticide / herbicide use or emissions from industrial/commercial activities poses a health threat to air and water quality, and residents (especially farmworkers). Will our next Senator seek to protect our environment and farmworkers, or duck the issue and serve polluters?

And where will our next senator stand on promoting clean renewable energy locally and statewide?

Where the state senatorial candidates stand on the environmental challenges we face will be the subject of an open forum for declared Senate District 3 primary candidates from 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 11 at the Medford Public Library. Questions, including those submitted by audience members, will focus on issues such as those listed above. The forum, organized by Southern Oregon Climate Action Now and co-sponsored by 11 concerned local nonprofit organizations, is free and open to the public. Please join us, to learn where the candidates stand on our environmental challenges and bring your questions. For a live stream and a recording, see http://socan.eco/forum/.

Alan Journet of Jacksonville is co-facilitator of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now.

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