Whew. That's my one-word environmentalist reaction to the end of Oregon's first ever regular "shorty" legislative session in an even-numbered year.
My wife and I were afraid that Republican efforts to undermine our state's land use, endangered species, and forest management laws would succeed in the speeded up craziness of an abbreviated session -- where public hearings often were a sham and last minute deals on important bills were the norm.
But overall, I'm happy.
My biggest personal concern was HB 4095, a totally unnecessary bill that would have allowed three southern Oregon counties to essentially opt out of the statewide land use system, substituting their own politically-inspired definitions of farm and forest land.
("If it can be paved over, it isn't worth growing crops or trees on" is the truthful desired definition, but Republican county commissioners would have come up with sneakier ways of saying the same thing.)
That bill didn't go anywhere, praise be to the Joint Ways and Means Committee. Likely efforts will be made to revive a reincarnation of HB 4095 in the next session. Hopefully in 2013 Dems will have broken the 30-30 tie in the House in their favor and increased the Democratic Senate majority.
My wife, Laurel, went to the legislature and testified against a bill aimed at overriding the successful citizen initiative against using dogs to hunt cougars, and also against another bill (HB 4158) which bizarrely would have authorized the killing of wolves in order to preserve them under the state's endangered species act.
Both failed. Way to go, Laurel!
Now the lawsuit filed by Oregon Wild and other organizations against the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) can go forward in the Court of Appeals without political interference. A legal hold has been put on the killing of a wolf in eastern Oregon which supposedly has been killing cattle.
However, ranchers need to show that they've tried non-lethal means of deterring wolf attacks before a member of this endangered species can be killed. The lawsuit presented strong evidence that this hasn't happened, and ODFW has been too eager to pull the trigger.
Much of the Republican "jobs plan" in the 2012 session centered around trashing irreplaceable farm and forest lands for illusory short-term economic gain. Thankfully, neither the Oregon legislature nor Governor Kitzhaber fell for this B.S.
Kitzhaber was opposed to a bill that authorized increased clear-cutting of timber on state lands. It failed, as did some other misguided G.O.P. efforts to revive rural economies. Earth to Republicans: the money problems of rural Oregon counties aren't going to be solved by doing away with environmental protections and engaging in unsustainable forest management practices. Thinning fireprone forests makes more sense than cutting old growth.
Nor is farming in eastern Oregon going to be helped much by taking lots of water from the Columbia River -- another G.O.P. "jobs" bill which met a well-earned demise. This is an idea which has some merit, if implemented wisely, but it needs a lot more study than was possible in the short 2012 session.
The biggest lesson to take away from the past month's legislative deliberations is how important elections are. And voting is. In 2010 Kitzhaber won over Republican Chris Dudley by only 22,238 votes, 1.5% of the electorate.
Imagine what an environmental disaster the past two legislative sessions would have been if Oregon was led by Governor Dudley and Republicans were in control of the state House and Senate (currently 30-30 and 16-14 D-R).
Republicans don't understand that economic development and protection of natural resources go hand in hand. For some reason conservation has become a dirty word to conservatives. However, without a healthy, vibrant, productive Earth, where do they think long-term economic growth is going to come from?
Not from fantasy land, where a good share of G.O.P. legislators reside these days.
(Here's a overview of the 2012 legislative session from the green viewpoint of 1000 Friends of Oregon.)