May 13, 2016
Thank you, Carl, for that kind introduction.
In 1973, Governor Tom McCall told The New York Times, “We are facing a shameless threat to our whole quality of our life. Sub-dividers are chopping and thrashing away, making hamburger out of the magnificent landscape of Oregon.”
And from that impulse – to protect Oregon against unchecked growth and development – came SB 100; creating, in a time of great change, our innovative system of statewide land use planning.
That system, the first of its kind in the nation, protects Oregon's beauty, bounty, and livability to this day.
Once again, we find ourselves in a time of great change – one that calls for innovation, courage, and leadership.
And as you well know, this time, the major threat to our quality of life is global climate change. Addressing it is an environmental and economic imperative.
Future generations of Oregonians will judge this generation not on the fact of climate change, but how we responded to it.
And we will not let them down.
Working together in partnership over the past year, we took major steps forward to make Oregon cleaner and greener.
We adopted landmark clean fuels legislation to help improve air quality and reduce the state’s carbon footprint.
We passed the Toxic Free Kids Act and took action to address Brownfields Cleanup. We increased penalties for poaching. And we accelerated the availability of solar energy in Oregon.
Earlier this year, I signed historic agreements to protect and conserve the Sage Grouse, and to remove dams to restore water and fish habitats in the Klamath Basin.
I also have taken action to hold state regulators accountable for air quality programs that protect public health statewide. It’s time the regulation of industrial emissions caught up with scientific evidence connecting environmental quality and public health.
In addition to $2.5 million dollars to launch a statewide, interagency Cleaner Air Oregon program, I appointed new leadership at DEQ to hold the agency accountable.
Perhaps best of all, in early March of 2016, I approved the nation’s first “coal to clean” law that gives Oregon a vision for a future free of coal-powered electricity.
And today, although we are still not on track to meet our greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, we are certainly heading in the right direction.
But there is still a great deal of work to be done – work we must continue to do together.
Outside of Oregon, we have achieved national recognition as environmental leaders. But within Oregon, we know there are serious challenges that are not merely looming on the horizon; they have arrived.
Drought. Wildfires. Flooding. Record high temperatures. Record low snowpack.
In addition to responding to the challenges of a changing global climate, our population is growing steadily, and with it, demands for water, land, energy, and economic development.
Yet, less than two percent of our General Fund dollars go to support state programs that safeguard our air and water, conserve our lands and protect them from wildfire, and engage the public in outdoor pursuits that promote Oregon’s quality of life and environmental well-being.
Oregon is changing—becoming more diverse demographically and economically—and the ways people engage with the outdoors must change with it.
We can no longer afford to do things the same old way.
For example, although hunting and fishing have declined since the 1970s and 80s, we rely on licensing fees paid by those who hunt and fish to support the bulk of our fish and wildlife conservation work. This must change.
We have vast acres of state public forest lands near many of our growing population areas. Yet, we continue to look to timber harvest dollars to pay for the State’s efforts to protect these areas.
And finally, we live in the social media age—a time when we are never without our cell phones; where constant messaging takes our attention away from the world around us. Where video gaming and other technology command an increasing share of our children’s time and attention.
Author Richard Louv [“loov”] wrote about this in “Last Child in the Woods,” a book about saving our children from what he termed “Nature Deficit Disorder”.
He said, “Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save …the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”
This speaks to the imperative to do more to connect – and re-connect – Oregonians to the outdoors. Not only is it important for equity and public health reasons, it is critical to our conservation efforts.
It’s simple: people protect what they care about.
We need more people – all kinds of people – who understand the interconnection between our well-being, the health of our ecosystems, and the natural world that sustains life.
Everyone in this room cares deeply about our oceans, forests, high deserts, grasslands and rivers, along with the native species they support.
And like all of you, I am committed to addressing climate change, the health of our air, and the quality of our water.
But advancing these values requires more than just our collective political will; it requires political might.
And we cannot build and sustain the necessary political might until we broaden and deepen the public’s understanding and support for environmental conservation.
We must grow the number of caring voices, minds, and hearts who feel passionate about this sense of place; who will join us in the fight to protect the environment – and who will continue that fight for generations to come.
Advancing new and innovative ways to connect Oregonians to the outdoors will help us combat global climate change and protect what makes Oregon great.
My administration and executive branch agencies are actively seeking new ways to awaken more Oregonians to these special places.
I am challenging them to build broader and more meaningful partnerships that truly reflect the broad spectrum of Oregonians’ experiences and communities.
We are reaching out to communities of color to engage them in the 2016 Governor’s Campout in June.
We are using film, music, and art about outdoor recreation and nature to build awareness in urban communities and in demographic groups who may not previously have had these experiences.
For example, you may have seen OPB’s “Road Sessions,” featuring videos of home-grown Oregon bands performing in parks and landmarks such as the lighthouse at Cape Mears, or inside Vista House, perched above the Columbia Gorge.
For the health of our families and our future, and to protect our exceptional natural places, we must – and we will – find new ways to connect Oregonians from all walks of life with the outdoors.
And in doing so, we will instill for future generations the values Oregonians hold dear: conservation, equity, and a strong and sustainable economy.
Thank you for your commitment to protecting Oregon’s natural environment, and for your partnership with me in making our state cleaner and greener.
Together, we will move Oregon forward.