The Cleanest Line

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    A Watershed Moment for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

    By Nate Ptacek



    Brushing past lily pads, my canoe cuts through the serene calm of a September evening. I glide silently under massive pines in the fading light, careful to avoid the weathered snags of black spruce jutting out from shore. The water is still warm, but there is a slight chill in the air – a reminder that the brief northern summer is waning. 

    Suddenly, the silence is broken by a loud buzz. With a few draw strokes, I reach the source – a large dragonfly is trapped on the water’s surface, blown into the lake during a passing storm just an hour before. Ripples echo out in a delicate pattern as she struggles to take flight. Instinctively, I reach into the water, taking care not to crush her wings as she trembles wildly in my grasp.

    [Video: Watershed from Nate Ptacek]

    Continue reading "A Watershed Moment for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness" »

    Cooking Up a Conservation Victory in Canada’s Sacred Headwaters

    By Shannon McPhail

    We Did It!

    It's not often that a small, rural region of communities declares victory against one of the largest corporations on the planet, so when it happens - WE NEED TO CELEBRATE!

    Editor's note: I remember hearing Shannon speak back in 2010 when she, Ali Howard and a group of kayaking filmmakers visited Patagonia HQ to screen Awakening the Skeena. Shannon was passionate, funny and full of fight. We've published a number of posts on this issue – from protests to photos to film – so it's with great joy that we share this wonderful news today.

    The problem? Royal Dutch Shell wanted to drill 1,500-10,000 coal bed methane gas wells in the Sacred Headwaters, where three of Canada's greatest wild salmon and steelhead rivers, the Skeena, Stikine and Nass are born.

    These rivers are among the last surviving intact, kick-ass, grizzly bear chasing 30-pound salmon over waterfalls kind of rivers. Native and white families harvesting enough food for the winter kind of rivers. Dip your head in and drink the water without tablets or filters because it’s so clean kind of rivers. Not a single dam anywhere kind of rivers.

    Continue reading "Cooking Up a Conservation Victory in Canada’s Sacred Headwaters" »

    Streams of Consequence: Public Outcry Successfully Halting Dams in Patagonia

    Words by Chris Kassar, photos by James Q Martin

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    “Patagonia is not for sale! Protect her rivers!”   

    “Defend Aysén! Keep Patagonia free from dams!” 

    These chants echoed through the streets of Santiago, Chile in April 2012 as tens of thousands once again voiced their opposition to HidroAysén’s proposal to dam two of Patagonia’s pristine rivers, the Baker and the Pascua. A few days earlier, the Chilean Supreme Court voted 3-2 in favor of the HidroAysén dam project in Patagonia and against appeals filed by opponents. 

    This decision was a major setback, but it has not turned out to be a green light for dam construction. Almost one year after the Supreme Court’s decision, the rivers still run free and a critical element of the project – the longest proposed power line in the world (1,180 miles from Patagonia to Santiago) continues to be a huge headache for HidroAysén, a big business partnership between an Italian energy company and a Chilean energy company called Colbún.

    Continue reading "Streams of Consequence: Public Outcry Successfully Halting Dams in Patagonia" »

    From the Front Lines: 50,000 Join the Biggest Climate Rally in U.S. History

    By Alison Kelman

    Foc_2

    His message was simple. When you are in a hole, stop digging.

    On Sunday morning I joined prominent environmentalist and 350.org President Bill McKibben, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, and over 50,000 protestors on the National Mall to participate in the largest climate change rally in U.S. history. The Forward on Climate Rally was supported by 168 organizations and environmental groups from across the country. Buses, trains, and bicycles delivered protestors from every corner of the nation. The temperature hovered just above freezing as we waved signs, chanted slogans, and huddled against strangers for warmth. Between flurries, rays of sun peaked out from behind the looming Washington Monument.

    “All I wanted to see was a movement of people against climate change, and now I have seen it,” proclaimed McKibben to the crowd.

    [Above: Author Alison Kelman and 350.org President Bill McKibben, backstage before Bill's speech. All photos courtesy of Alison Kelman]

    Continue reading "From the Front Lines: 50,000 Join the Biggest Climate Rally in U.S. History" »

    Is It Worth It?

    John woods_green peace_2

    On Sunday July 25, 2010, a pipeline carrying tar sands crude from Alberta, Canada, burst open and spilled more than 1.1 million gallons of oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River, near Marshall, Michigan. The oil coated wildlife and birds, soaked into wetlands and waterways, and directly impacted farmland, businesses, homes and communities as far as 40 miles away. After a delay of 17 hours, workers arrived on the scene and found that the sludgy, toxic, tar sands crude sinks in water, rather than floats – making it much more difficult to clean up. Recovery efforts have already cost over $800 million, and the price paid in ecological and human health is hard to measure.

    As we move into the final phase of the Our Common Waters campaign, we’re taking a close look at expanding tar sands development across North America. From the strip mining of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to the spider web of pipelines expanding across the U.S. and Canada, to ports and coastal areas that would act as hubs for export: at every point in the chain of production and transportation, water is at risk. The water we drink, the water we fish, the water we swim and boat in, the only water we have.

    We’re asking ourselves and our community: Is it worth it?

    [Above: Vast open-pit bitumen mines require massive clear-cutting of the pristine boreal forest in the Alberta tar sands. Photo: John Woods/Greenpeace]

    Continue reading "Is It Worth It?" »

    DamNation – A River Reestablishes Itself

    By Katie Klingsporn

    Creek

    In September of 2011, machines began chipping away at the Elwha Dam in Washington’s lush Olympic Peninsula, kicking off the largest dam-removal project in United States history.

    The dam has since been completely removed from the section of the Elwha River it had occupied since 1913. Another dam upstream, the Glines Canyon Dam, located in Olympic National Park, is partially dismantled and expected to be a thing of the past by early next summer, freeing the river for the first time in 100 years.

    [Above: The 210 foot Glines Canyon Dam in Olympic National Park has illegally blocked spawning habitat for an extraordinary chinook salmon run since 1927. Photo by Ben Knight/DamNation]

    Continue reading "DamNation – A River Reestablishes Itself" »

    Broken Rivers: By the Numbers

    Matilija_dam_cut_here_2

    As Patagonia moves out of its Broken Rivers phase of the Our Common Waters environmental campaign, we wanted to take a look back at what was achieved in the last couple of years as it relates to broken rivers/dam removal. We often don’t take the time to consider these events during or after the course of our campaigns. So, with that in mind, please look at the following list of accomplishments that happened with the hard work of thousands of citizens across our land.

    • Dams taken down in 2012: 53 and counting
    • Major dams removed in Washington: 3 – The Condit Dam on the White Salmon River, Elwha Dam and Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River
    • Size of the Glines Canyon Dam – in terms of all dams removed in human history: Largest, at 210 feet
    • Number of miles of river habitat that Atlantic salmon will be able to access thanks to ongoing Penobscot River dam removals in Maine: 1,000
    • Number of river herring traveling upriver on the Kennebec in Maine before removal of the Edwards Dam: 200,000
    • Number of herring returning to the river after removal of the dam: 3 million
    • Number of emails sent to members of Congress regarding Congressman Hasting’s "worst dam bill ever" to prevent federal funding for dam removal: over 8,000 (opposed)
    • Number of actions taken, encouraging NOAA to continue funding the Community-based Restoration Program and the Open Rivers Initiative: 10,394 (since 2005 these government programs have removed dams and culverts, restored rivers and freed up passages for wild fish)
    • Number of emails sent to protest two boondoggle dam and reservoir 
proposals on the Chattahoochee River, listed as one of the 10 Most 
Endangered Rivers of 2012 by American Rivers: 3,352
    • Number of dams in the U.S. labeled “high” or “significant hazard” by the Army Corps of Engineers: over 26,000

     
    For more, see all blog posts from the Our Common Waters campaign.

    [Photo: Instructions for removal of the Matilija Dam, Ventura County, California. From "We're Just Getting Started: Elwha and Condit Establish Dam Removal Momentum"]

    DamNation – Free-Flowing Again

    by Katie Klingsporn

    Damnation_condit_2

    A little over a year ago, a 125-foot-tall dam stood in Washington’s White Salmon River, a concrete plug with a serene reservoir at its back and a trickle of river spilling out downstream.

    But it’s hard to tell that today.

    The Condit Hydroelectric Dam, which was built in the early 1900s to harness the energy of the White Salmon for local industry, was blasted into the history books in October 2011 with 700 pounds of carefully placed dynamite.

    The explosion, part of a phased project orchestrated by dam operator Pacificorp as an alternative to building costly fish passages, released the White Salmon River in a torrent of muddy water, debris and sediment, draining Northwestern Lake in less than two hours and freeing the river for the first time in almost a century.

    Since that time, demolition crews have completed the removal of some 35,000 cubic yards of concrete, as well as logjams and other debris in the river.

    And when public-access restrictions were lifted in early November, a group of boaters, river activists, biologists, rafting guides and kayakers converged for a historic float.

    [Above: Washington’s White Salmon river was officially opened to boaters this month after the removal of the Condit Dam, and spawning salmon have already been spotted upstream for the first time in a century. Photos by Ben Knight/DamNation]

    Continue reading "DamNation – Free-Flowing Again" »

    America: the DamNation

    by Katie Klingsporn

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    Despite their imposing numbers and size, most people never give dams a second thought.

    Patagonia founder and owner Yvon Chouinard is not one of those people.

    When he sees dams, he sees broken waterways, an antiquated way of thinking and a means of generating energy that is far from green. He also sees the potential to mend the damage by taking down dams.

    “I’m a fisherman, and I want to see fish come back to these rivers,” Chouinard said. “I want to establish that when you put in a dam or when you dig an open-pit mine or scrape down a mountain, that you have to restore it. There’s a public trust there and you have to restore it.”

    [Above: Executive Producer of DamNation and Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard, has long been an advocate of dam busting and protecting free flowing rivers. Photo: Tim Davis.]

    Continue reading "America: the DamNation" »

    Wild Salmon Get a Champion in Gov. Kitzhaber, but are Under Attack in Congress

    by Bobby Hayden, Save Our Wild Salmon

    If you’re excited by the progress being made to restore healthy free-flowing rivers and recover wild salmon across the country (think the Elwha, White Salmon, Kennebec, Penobscot, Sandy, and Rogue Rivers) – and you want to see more – please read on.

    Gov_Kitzhaber

    First, the good news: salmon get a political champion.

    Every so often – even in our currently highly polarized political climate – elected-leaders work to rise above the fray and seek new, collaborative solutions to tough challenges.

    [Above: Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber. Photo courtesy of the State of Oregon.]

    Continue reading "Wild Salmon Get a Champion in Gov. Kitzhaber, but are Under Attack in Congress" »

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