Friends of the Columbia Gorge: Major Accomplishments

Friends of the Columbia Gorge: Major Accomplishments
The town of Mosier as seen from Friends' land trust property at Mosier Plateau; a publicly accessible trail linking to the town opened in 2013. (photographer: Paloma Ayala)


  • Friends of the Columbia Gorge founded.


  • Friends’ lawsuit blocks the 21-lot Rizor subdivision directly across from Multnomah Falls.


  • Friends’ intensive lobbying with numerous conservation groups leads to passage of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act.


  • Friends intervenes in lawsuit challenging constitutionality of the Scenic Area Act. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately refuses to hear the case, ending the threat.


  • Friends intervenes in major "takings" lawsuit involving the National Scenic Area. The Birkenfeld lawsuit is dismissed by the U.S. District Court.


  • Friends works with the Fair Deal Committee, a Gorge landowner group, to secure $8 million in federal funding to purchase scenic and sensitive lands.


  • Friends works with 30 other organizations, businesses, and individuals to create the Columbia River Gorge Vision 2000 Campaign.
  • Friends works with the Washington Division of Natural Resources to adopt the Columbia Gorge Forest Protection Rules, creating stronger logging standards in Washington State.


  • Friends successfully lobbies Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber to reject a proposed casino on Government Rock in Cascade Locks.


  • Friends opens its first Gorge-based office, in Hood River, and hires its first Gorge-based field organizer.


  • In response to an appeal brought by Friends, the Columbia River Gorge Commission reverses a Skamania County decision approving a new aggregate quarry on Scenic Area lands visible from several key viewing areas.


  • Friends launches Lewis & Clark Landscapes Project and works with others to secure $5 million for federal land acquisition for 2003.
  • Friends convinces the U.S. Forest Service to remove cattle from the Sandy River Delta and conduct a public process and environmental review prior to issuing any new grazing permits.


  • Friends works with local residents to persuade the Washington State Parks Commission to lift the temporary closure of the 31-mile Klickitat Trail and allow public access.


  • Friends resolves two longstanding legal appeals and protects the Gorge from overdevelopment when Skamania County repeals previous zoning changes that would have opened up as many as 1,731 lots in pre-1937 "ancient" subdivisions to each be separately developed with a dwelling.


  • In response to an administrative appeal brought by Friends and allies, Klickitat County abandons its plans to adopt new zoning language that would have allowed natural gas-fired and biomass-fueled generators "outright" in nearly two-thirds of the county.
  • Friends establishes the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust.
  • After years of litigation, Friends prevails when the Oregon Court of Appeals rejects a takings claim brought by a Wasco County landowner who had been enjoined by a lower court from bulldozing a Scenic Area property containing Native American cultural resources.


  • The Oregon Court of Appeals upholds a Friends legal victory, confirming that Oregon’s Ballot Measure 37 does not apply within the National Scenic Area.
  • In response to a lawsuit filed by Friends, a federal district court requires a full environmental review of the potential impacts of federal and state agencies’ plans to introduce nonnative Rocky Mountain goats to the Oregon side of the National Scenic Area. The agencies later cancel their plans.


  • Friends and allies convince UPC/First Wind to cancel its proposal to build the massive Cascade Wind energy project on Sevenmile Hill, thus protecting Gorge vistas and wildlife habitat.
  • In an administrative appeal brought by Friends and allies, a hearing examiner concludes that Skamania County must review the environmental impacts of its plans to open up hundreds of thousands of acres of land to large-scale energy development, increased residential growth, and other uses. The County ultimately abandons much of the proposed zoning amendments.
  • Friends works with others to convince the U.S. Congress to pass the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, including more than 22,000 protected acres in the National Scenic Area.
  • Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust raises $4.2 million for the Campaign for Cape Horn, to secure two rim-view properties to allow public access and recreation at Cape Horn.
  • The Oregon Supreme Court rules in favor of Friends’ claim that the Gorge Management Plan fails to prevent the cumulative adverse effects of development on natural and cultural resources.
  • Friends and allies convince the Washington Department of Natural Resources to shelve plans by SDS Lumber Co. to build 35 industrial wind turbines in spotted owl habitat on public land.


  • Friends and allies block the proposed shipment of 150,000 tons of garbage annually from Hawaii through the Gorge to a landfill in Klickitat County.


  • Friends and allies secure the closure of PGE’s Boardman coal power plant by 2020, phasing out the biggest source of air pollution affecting the Gorge and establishing a $2.5 million environmental fund.
  • Friends celebrates the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area and the grand opening of the Cape Horn Loop Trail and the Nancy Russell Overlook.
  • Oregon Governor Kitzhaber rejects a proposed 600,000-square-foot casino resort in the heart of the Columbia Gorge, ending a 13-year saga.
  • Friends launches Gorge Towns to Trails, a long-term vision for a comprehensive trail system linking Gorge communities to recreation.


  • In response to Friends’ claims, the Oregon Court of Appeals decides that the Gorge Commission’s revisions to the Gorge Management Plan fail to protect natural resources from cumulative adverse effects and that the Commission failed to demonstrate that the Plan protects cultural resources from cumulative adverse effects.
  • Responding to advocacy by Friends and allies, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire protects Gorge vistas by denying 15 of 50 industrial wind turbines proposed by SDS Lumber Co. along the rim of the Gorge.
  • Friends and allies celebrate the removal of nearly 100-year-old Condit Dam, restoring the free-flowing White Salmon River and reopening access to native salmon runs.
  • Friends increases its bi-state presence, opening an office in Washougal, WA.


  • Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust creates a public trail and overlook on its Mosier Plateau property connecting to the town of Mosier’s Pocket Park.


  • In response to advocacy from Friends and allies, the Oregon Department of State Lands rejects a vital permit for Ambre Energy’s proposed Morrow Pacific coal export project along the Columbia River, which would have sent more than eight million tons of coal through the Columbia River Gorge each year.
  • In response to a notice of intent to sue sent by Friends and ally Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency agree to respond to the massive increase in transport of oil by rail and barge in the region by analyzing the risks that oil-spill cleanup and containment actions might pose to salmon and other endangered species in the Columbia River.


  • The Washington Supreme Court affirms the rights of Friends and allies to sue Skamania County for its failures to adopt zoning and resource lands designations on more than fourteen thousand acres of nonfederal lands throughout the county.
  • After more than four years of litigation brought by Friends and allies, Klickitat County repeals a controversial zoning ordinance that would have allowed residential sprawl across nearly one thousand acres of land along the Lower White Salmon Wild and Scenic River.


  • After three years of advocacy and litigation, Friends and allies succeed in stopping the Troutdale Energy Center, a controversial 701-megawatt power plant proposed along the mouth of the Sandy River.
  • Citing treaty rights of the Lummi Nation whose ancestral fishing waters were threatened, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denies a needed permit for SSA Marine and Peabody Energy’s oposed Gateway Pacific coal terminal sited at Cherry Point, WA, which would have sent 48 million tons of coal by rail through the Columbia River Gorge each year. The advocacy of Friends and allies, including the Lummi, turned public opinion in Washington state against the project.
  • Friends and Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) team up to support a U.S. Forest Service acquisition of land stretching one-mile along the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. The trail ran along a ten-foot easement and the acquisition protects against future mining and logging. Friends and PCTA gathered letters of support from over 30 local businesses touting the value outdoor recreation has on the local economy.
  • The result of a productive partnership between the Port of Camas-Washougal, Friends, and other community stakeholders, the Washougal Waterfront park and trail, promoted as the gateway to Gorge Towns to Trails, is dedicated.
  • The Wasco County Board of Commissioners, citing Yakama Nation treaty rights, votes unanimously to deny Union Pacific's application to add an additional rail track through Mosier, Oregon, site of a near-catastrophic oil train derailment and fire just months earlier. Friends was among the groups that had appealed the Wasco County Planning Commission's earlier vote to approve the rail expansion project.
  • In a legal settlement with Friends and allies, BNSF Railway agrees to clean up coal spilled from uncovered coal trains, conduct a court-supervised study of the viability of covering coal trains throughout its rail network, and fund $1 million in environmental projects as mitigation for coal pollution.​


  • After five years of litigation brought by Friends and ally Save Our Scenic Area, Skamania County agrees to review thousands of acres of unzoned lands in private ownership for potential zoning.