Oregon’s environmental legacy

Guest blog by Farrah Fatemi, OEC Volunteer

I spent the past decade hopping around the Eastern United States and Canada.  During that time, I immersed myself in the study of natural ecosystems as a graduate student, and later as a professor.  But after struggling to feel at home in New England, I decided change was in order.  Drawn to the beautifully diverse landscape and cultural ethos of the Pacific Northwest, I packed up and headed West this past summer.

Earthwatch, April, 1975

I then connected with Oregon Environmental Council (OEC), about a volunteer research project.

For their 50th anniversary, the communications team is working to characterize the organization’s historical legacy.  To help with this, I poured over old news clippings, newsletters, and mined the web for information to put OEC’s key achievements in context.

From my research, I was struck by the passion and dedication of grass-roots efforts that laid the groundwork for OEC’s legacy.  In earlier days, their newsletter was titled Earthwatch (pictured at right).  The tone of Earthwatch was ardently activist but also poetic; clearly written by folks who cared deeply about the issues they were fighting for.  Some were dedicating lots of volunteer hours to this statewide nonprofit.

Judie at work in the OEC office in the 1970s.

Judie Hansen, who worked at OEC in the 1970s, recounts “the first three years I worked for no pay….OEC was an exciting place to be, where young, enthusiastic citizens cut their teeth on every conceivable environmental issue”.

Earthwatch, January, 1975

When the organization was founded, OEC was a clear leader in advancing protection of open spaces such as the Mt. Jefferson and Crater Lake wilderness areas.  OEC also fought for several years to promote federal legislation in 1975 that protected Hell’s Canyon (one of several articles in Earthwatch, pictured right).

As the environmental movement in Oregon developed over time, OEC’s focus began to shift from land conservation to issues of human health and climate.  Yet one thing has remained constant–OEC continues to help make Oregon an environmental leader and pave the way for nationwide regulations.

Oregon was the first state to pass a deposit for container recycling, provide federal funding for bicycles, in-state laws to reduce ozone depleting chemicals and phase-out mercury in thermostats.  All of this thanks to the collaborative work of OEC and its members.

As I learned about Oregon’s environmental history, I grew proud of the work of organizations such as OEC to push the state’s environmental agenda forward.

As for me, Oregon is the eighth state I’ve lived in, and the first one in a long time that feels like home—one where I want to contribute to the strong legacy of environmental stewardship.

Thank you, Farrah! Farrah’s important research about the people, policies and places that have helped shape 50 years of Oregon Environmental Council will be featured in the coming months. 

Do you have a story you’d like to share about Oregon Environmental Council?  As we prepare to celebrate 50 years of loving Oregon in 2018, we invite you to share your memories, photos or other opportunities with our communications team. Contact Amy Lewin, Director of Communications: amyl@oeconline.org or 503-222.1963 x111.

More: People & policies that have shaped a movement. #LovingOregon

Related Posts
Filter by
Post Page
Water News Water Conservation Featured Rural Partnerships Agriculture Air Quality Climate Protection OCAP-Page Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Toxic Free Priorities OCAP News People Toxics-Free Environments Policy OEC News/Updates/Events Media/PR/Statements
Sort by

Road-trips, Representatives and Adventures in Eastern Oregon

Summer is road-trip time, and recently, OEC staff Karen Lewotsky (Water Policy and Rural Partnerships Director) and Morgan Gratz-Weiser (Legislative Director) headed southeast across Oregon to Crane, with stops along the way in Tumalo and Prineville. Why Crane? The gathering in Crane was organized by leading legislators and partner organizations Verde, Willamette
September 10, 2021, 8:24 pm


New report elevates water justice in Oregon

A new report from the Oregon Water Futures Project reveals water challenges facing communities across the state, from water shortages, to living with unsafe water, watching sacred ecosystems disappear, and critical information gaps about clean water during emergencies. The report highlights key findings from community
September 2, 2021, 11:10 pm


Strengthening Oregon’s Climate Protection Program

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is getting closer to finalizing rules for a new Climate Protection Program. Over the past year, DEQ has made a number of positive changes to strengthen the rules; however, a few key policy design features still hang in the
August 31, 2021, 10:07 pm


silhouette of person in tractor working a field

Centering Frontline Voices: Oregon OSHA Enacts Heat & Smoke Rules

In a summer already marked by unprecedented temperatures and a devastating wildfire season, OEC and its partners pressed Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to adopt a health-first standard when it comes to protecting vulnerable workers from climate hazards. As part of EO-20-04 (OCAP), Governor Kate Brown directed Oregon OSHA to develop standards in order to protect frontline workers from excessive heat
August 11, 2021, 3:57 pm


Oregon OSHA Enacts Emergency Heat Rules

A Joint Press Release – July 8, 2021 Contacts: Ira Cuello-Martinez, PCUN iracuello@pcun.org, (503) 851-5774 Kate Suisman, Northwest Justice Workers Project
July 13, 2021, 6:19 pm


Oregon Climate Action Plan: 2021 Progress Report

March 26, 2021, 12:11 am


Celebrating Year 1 of the Oregon Climate Action Plan

March 10, 2021, 7:51 pm


Statement on Protecting Oregon’s Democratic Process

Today, Oregon Environmental Council sent a strong statement to Oregon’s legislative leadership
January 21, 2021, 10:49 pm


OHA Report: Climate Crisis a Current and Growing Threat to the Health of Oregonians

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) just released its “Climate and Health in Oregon 2020” report, documenting the public health impacts from climate change across Oregon. The report is the first thorough analysis of the health effects of climate change in Oregon since 2014, and is the first of three OHA deliverables directed under EO 20-04, the Oregon Climate Action Plan. The report findings are grim, confirming what OEC has been saying all along– that climate change is a public he
January 5, 2021, 8:15 pm


Oregon Clean Fuels Program: Building Back Better

December 28, 2020, 9:00 am


No Replies to "Oregon's environmental legacy"