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A Climate for Change in the Gorge

A Climate for Change in the Gorge
Sunrise in the Gorge. (photographer: Tim Finnegan)
By Dan Bell
Land Trust Director
July 12, 2022

This spring, after more than a year of effort and outreach, the draft Climate Change Action Plan for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area was released for public comment. Developed by the Columbia River Gorge Commission and the U.S. Forest Service, the Climate Change Action Plan is the first attempt to create a focused, comprehensive plan to address the impacts of climate change in the Gorge.

Over the past decade, Friends of the Columbia Gorge has worked and partnered with community leaders and climate activists to encourage the Gorge Commission and Forest Service to adopt strong climate change policies in the new Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Management Plan that was adopted last year. In the process, the commission explored climate resilience efforts already underway, including by local governments such as the cities of Hood River and The Dalles, and regional tribes. Friends has participated with representatives from stakeholder groups in a special review committee convened to provide input to the Gorge Commission staff. A key concern was that the plan focus on climate action strategies encompassing the entire National Scenic Area.

A good start

The draft Climate Change Action Plan establishes objectives to strengthen resilience and support adaptation to adverse effects of climate change including warming temperatures, changing ecosystems, habitat degradation, and increased risks of wildfire. It incorporates many of the stakeholder concerns and strategies, including protections for cold water habitat for salmon and for culturally important plants, Oregon white oak habitat, and winter range for deer and elk. It also proposes to identify areas in the Gorge that provide climate resilience in order to ensure their ongoing protection through land use policies and zoning designations.

Overall, the draft plan is a good start, the beginning of a serious conversation on how we protect the scenic, natural, cultural, and recreation resources of the Gorge, as well as its communities, from the dire threats posed by climate change. But more will need to be done going forward. Stay tuned as we scrutinize the details of the plan and develop specific recommendations on how to strengthen it.

The public comment period on the draft Climate Change Action Plan is open until Aug. 9, and will include opportunities to comment at the Gorge Commission meeting on Aug. 9. To sign-on with your support for a strong plan and to stay updated on ways to engage, visit our Take Action page.

Visit the Gorge Commission's website to learn more about the draft plan.