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Impressive Action on Climate

Impressive Action on Climate
(Photo: A crowd listens to remarks by Friends' Gorge Field Representative Peter Cornelison at a 2017 Hood River climate rally. ©2017 Michael McKeag)
By Peter Cornelison
Field Representative
April 22, 2021


Friends of the Columbia Gorge and its allies continue to notch impressive climate victories. Along with our conservation partners, Columbia Riverkeeper and others, we have defeated at least eight major fossil fuel projects in the last five years, preventing many millions of tons of carbon pollution from entering our atmosphere.

The “hit list” of defeated projects includes four fracked gas power plants, two gigantic coal export terminals, a massive oil terminal and the shut down of Oregon’s only coal fired power plant. This remarkable string of victories is due to solid public engagement and activism, strong and dedicated legal teams and conservation organizations that banded together to fight against huge fossil fuel interests and their pollution.

Local Gorge governments have also been involved in climate action. Early on they recognized the threat to public health and safety caused by fossil fuel transport through their cities, highlighted by the 2016 Union Pacific oil train derailment, fire and explosion in Mosier, Oregon. In response they passed numerous resolutions against coal and oil transport by rail through the Gorge and worked to enact strong statewide rail safety legislation.

In 2019 a new phase of climate action began due to increasing awareness and urgency of the climate emergency we are facing. Students from the Earth Action Club of Hood River Valley High School and Columbia Gorge Climate Action Network (CGCAN.org), a group long supported by Friends, proposed that the City of Hood River pass a “climate crisis bill” to commit the city to act on climate. This resolution passed, thanks in large measure to high school students who testified before council. They spoke with moral authority; city council listened and responded.

In 2020 the Columbia Gorge Commission passed a plan to manage the Gorge for the next ten years. The new Gorge Management Plan includes, for the first time, a chapter on Climate Change that Friends pushed hard for. It will measure key environmental indicators and help protect the natural Gorge for anticipated changes due to climate.

Local action on the global climate emergency has continued to gain momentum. In March 2021 the Cities of White Salmon and Mosier passed nearly identical Climate Crisis resolutions unanimously on the same evening. Friends, CGCAN.org and local partners helped with the passage of each of these bills. The resolutions call for meaningful reductions in municipal emissions but also for public education plus resilience and adaption planning to reduce the impacts of global warming.

Of particular note was the outpouring of public support for the White Salmon resolution. Commenter after commenter expressed the concern for our future and the need to take rapid and bold action on climate. This feeling of alarm is growing. Nationwide data from a 2020 Yale University study on Climate Change Communication shows that 72% of US adults now believe that global warming is happening and 71% believe it will harm future generations.

There is cause for optimism on climate change based on recent, progressive action by the Biden administration. Let’s accelerate the pace where ever we can. April is Earth Month in the Columbia Gorge with lots of ways you can get involved. Check out www.CGCAN.org for Earth Month activities and visit www.GorgeFriends.org for information on hikes, wildflowers and how you can protect the wonderful and wild Columbia Gorge.

Watch Friends' & CGCAN's April 16 Webinar: A Climate of Change


As field representative, Peter is responsible for building support and activism among Gorge residents for protecting the Columbia Gorge. A Friends staff member since 2003, Peter is a Hood River resident who has been active in a number of local conservation causes and organizations. Peter is the current board president of Thrive Hood River, he helped the Hood River Waterfront Community Park Association create the Hood River Waterfront Park, and is a founder of Streets Alive! HR. Peter also served on the Hood River City Council from 2014 - 2018.