News in Salem Oregon - Willamette Live » News Wed, 04 Mar 2015 22:13:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 2015 mid-valley Green Awards nominees inspire Thu, 19 Feb 2015 07:09:50 +0000 On March 7th the Mid-Willamette Valley community will once again recognize sustainable and earth conscious people, organizations and companies at the 2015 Mid-Valley Green Awards.  Presented by Capitol Subaru and hosted by the Straub Environmental Center and Marion County Environmental Services, the Green Awards honor all who work towards thoughtful stewardship of the natural resources of our area.

The Awards staff received 42 nominations in 8 divisions this year.  A new category, Sustainable Wine Maker or Brewery of the Year, was created, with four entities vying for this prestigious title.

A silent auction and raffle on the night of the event will help support the environmental education provided by the Straub Environmental Center.

“The Green Awards allow community members an opportunity to hear about the awesome things businesses and their own neighbors are doing to be sustainable and environmentally responsible,” says Michelle Cordova, Executive Director of the Straub Environmental Center.

The event will also feature a unique “Trashion” show, where designers “catwalk” all manner of garments and headgear created from repurposed, recycled materials.

“We are super excited about the enthusiasm this event has generated over the last six years,” Cordova says. “As our biggest annual fundraiser, Straub Environmental Center relies on this event for a big portion of our budget. I would like to thank the community in advance for their support!”

Once again, Salem Weekly celebrates all the nominees and highlights a few here to show the exciting diversity of the competition.

6th Annual

Mid-Valley Green Awards

Dinner, silent auction, raffle andTrashion show

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Salem Convention Center

5:00 – 8:30 p.m.


Wolf in South Salem Cycleworks

Wolf in South Salem Cycleworks

South Salem Cycleworks,

Michael Wolfe

Nominated for:

2015 Business

Recycler of the Year

2015 Small Sustainable

Business of the Year

2015 EarthWISE

Business of the Year

Michael Wolfe, owner South Salem Cycleworks, spends his days, “selling bikes, working on bikes and promoting bikes,” but green transportation is only the beginning of his efforts.

For twenty-five years the shop has never used a dumpster.  “We separate cardboard, plastic and metal, fluorescent light bulbs, the whole thing,” Wolfe says.  All materials are collected and sorted and delivered to local recycling agencies.   The shop uses organic degreasers and non-aerosol lubricants and encourages Bike Safety Classes for elementary schools, helps provide sheltered bike parking for elementary and middle schools and participated in, and won, the statewide Oregon Commute Challenge.

Wolfe lived in Eugene and worked as a bike mechanic and says, “I hardly ever started up my car when I lived there.  When I returned to Salem I tried to keep the same lifestyle… [but] it’s a lot more difficult here; the social environment in Salem isn’t as conducive to providing a bike-friendly environment.”

An effort that especially interests Wolfe is the repurposing South Salem Cycleworks does of old off-road bikes into “urban bikes” that can provide reliable transportation for people who have few other options.

“People ride bikes for two main reasons,” he says.  “One is for recreation and the other is that they cannot afford to use anything else.  In Salem, public transit isn’t emphasized; there is no bus service on weekends and those who don’t own cars are the ones who need that weekend bus service the most to get to work.”

Typically, financially challenged people who ride bikes use “beaters that they get from Wal-Mart,” Wolfe says.  “They’re inexpensive, but they have a lifespan of only 3-6 months of heavy use.”

Cycleworks refurbishes old “off-road” bikes, using some reused parts to create hardy “urban bikes” with features that make them extremely durable.  “Many of these people are not just economically challenged, but face mental challenges as well, and if you can get them on a dependable, reliable bike that will last, they will have more money to spend on other things,” Wolfe says.  “I like that a lot better than seeing another old trail bike going out to the transfer site to be wasted.”

Wolfe’s three nominations reflect his philosophy that, “Bikes should change the way we live in this world.”


Millie Estrin in her garden

Millie Estrin in her garden

Millie Estrin

Nominated for:

2015 Individual

Recycler of the Year

One of six nominated for Individual Recycler of the Year, Millie Estrin has been involved in the Salem community and Temple Beth Shalom for years.   Her efforts led Temple Beth Shalom to receive EarthWISE certification in 2011.  An organic gardener and recycler, Estrin is motivated by love of people and the earth.

“I feel a responsibility to generations to come; my children and grandchildren and great- grandchildren,” she says.  “I want to do my utmost to leave this world in the best possible condition.”

Actions she incorporated into her own life include, “recycling, cutting down on waste and doing away with pesticides.. I garden organically, buy organic products as much as possible and influence other people in my sphere to think about how they’re living.”

In the early 1990s, Estrin noticed that foam cups were being used for beverage refreshments at the Oneg reception after synagogue service.  She had been recycling since before moving to Oregon from Chicago in 1978, and felt the use of cups destined for landfill was wrong.  Among many actions at Temple Beth Shalom since then, Estrin formed a committee to write a grant to secure bins for synagogue recycling and eliminated all plastic cutlery there.

“Slowly but surely we’ve become more sustainable,” she says.  “A few years ago, people started stepping up wanting to join in.  Now we have a full committee of all fantastic people, and we have done a lot at synagogue that has improved sustainability.”

Green Awards staff says that Estrin is modest, and doesn’t report all her volunteer time, but that she has logged in at least 266 hours working through community outreach programs to educate people about recycling.

“It seems like a no-brainer that we should care about what we do to the earth,” Estrin says.  “There is overwhelming evidence that climate change is due to human interference with nature.  It just seemed to me that it was the right thing to do, to make an effort to try to change the way we live.”

Her Jewish heritage plays a big role in her ethics, Estrin says.  “The Torah says to care for the world.”


Keith Beckman by BrucePac solar panels

Keith Beckman by BrucePac solar panels

BrucePac Meat Product Designers

2015 Large Sustainable

Business of the Year

2015 EarthWISE

Business of the Year

BrucePac creates value-added meat products by taking in raw frozen meat and custom cooking and seasoning it for soup manufacturers, the food service industry, restaurants, the military and others.  In 2014 it recycled more than 60,000 pounds of metal and 1.3 million pounds of cardboard.

But that’s not all, says Keith Beckman, Sustainability Coordinator for BrucePac for the last four years.

Solar power from company’s own panels also produces 100,000 kilowatt of energy per year, about 10% of what BrucePac uses.  Wind energy is also incorporated into the mix.

An environmental engineer hired to focus on conservation, Beckman says, “I am here because BrucePac cares about the environment and wants to protect the environment.  After all, our products come from the environment.  So it’s also in our best interest to produce our products sustainably.”

The company has an entire department dedicated to repairing wooden pallets and is currently designing equipment that will clean dirty plastic enough so it can be recycled, an innovation which would save 50,000 pounds of plastic from landfill a year.

Some of the raw product BrucePac receives from vendors arrives in non-recyclable waxed boxes.  “We recently got one supplier to switch to ‘green coat’ packaging, which enables the boxes to be recycled,” Beckman says.  “That increased our cardboard recycling by 10% and decreased our garbage output a good amount.”

Regular training encourages staff to find energy-conservation and water-saving projects throughout the facility.  BrucePac recently started an ‘energy bucks’ program to reinforce this; when someone brings forward a viable sustainability idea, they are awarded with ‘bucks’ for any purchase they might make at the company store, including clothing and other goods with the company logo.



Oregon Department of Corrections

Nominated for:

2015 Sustainable

Large Business of the Year

2015 EarthWISE

Business of the Year

The Oregon Department of Corrections is an immense institution, with 14 separate prisons situated throughout the state, a staff of 5,000 and 14,600 adults in custody.  Yet this large entity won the Green Awards Business Recycler of the Year award in 2013, and this time around, is nominated in two categories.

Chad Naugle, Sustainability Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Corrections, works out of a 250,000 SF warehouse in Salem, from which all the food, clothing and supplies for more than 20,000 people are procured and shipped.

A fleet of trucks ship the goods out to institutions daily and return full of e-waste and recyclables to be weighed, sorted, recycled and repurposed, providing work experience for adults in custody as well as huge reductions in waste and expense.

“It’s very rewarding to see this,” Naugle says.  “What’s been neat to see is the change in culture.  We’re bringing these men and women new vocational training and skills centered around sustainability.”

For example, broken furniture returned from other institutions gets repaired and custom-remade at the Salem warehouse by three woodworkers.  New furniture, wall paneling and other goods are created and shipped back out, sometimes to fill specific requests, all for free.  In 2013, this practice alone saved the Oregon Corrections system $370,000.

Other sustainability programs used by the Department of Corrections include Roots of Success, a multi-state environmental literacy and job readiness curriculum, a Sustainable Gardening program and beekeeper apprenticeships.

The warehouse is jammed with items that would have been thrown away only a few years ago; bales full of plastic wrap, worn out jeans and old shoes wait on wooden pallets to be recycled or repurposed.  When the pallets themselves are broken, they too will be repurposed in a wide variety of ways.  In 2014, adults in custody working in the warehouse processed 58 tons of fabric, sending 82,000 pounds to vendor who repurposed or recycled it responsibly – none went to landfill.

“I anticipate that this philosophy will go with the adults in custody when they leave this place,” Naugle says.  “These skills will be applied to their lives outside the institution to succeed and enhance the communities they live in.  Seeing them get confidence with themselves is very rewarding.”


Joseph Penner and custom-made delivery bike

Joseph Penner and custom-made delivery bike

Steel Bridge Coffee,

Joseph Penner

Nominated for:

2015 Small Sustainable

Business of the Year

Joseph Penner provides Salem and Keizer with primarily certified fair trade and organic coffee beans, home-roasted by solar power and bicycle- delivered the same day.

Steel Bridge Coffee started in November 2011, “on a very small scale,” after Penner had been roasting on his own for about a year, “partly for the novelty and partly because it was the best way to get myself great coffee.”

The coffee comes in reusable mason jars, which customers leave for Penner when he makes new delivery; they are returned to the shop to be washed and sent out again.  The use of these jars means that 2,666 12-ounce coffee bags were kept out of landfill in 2014 alone.

Business has grown steadily, even with ever-expanding coffee options in town, Penner says, “because I get a lot of word of mouth.  So many customers are passionate about Steel Bridge Coffee and rave about it to their friends.”

Penner even has one customer “who has a little ‘coffee syndicate’ going; she orders more and more, and distributes the coffee to her friends.”

With a web site, blog and Facebook presence, Steel Bridge provides information on how to brew great coffee, how to home-roast beans and gives details about the growing conditions for the different beans it offers.  Penner is committed to supporting the environment in every phase of his operation.  “Environmental sustainability has been a personal focus of mine ever since I moved to Salem 9 years ago,” he says.  “I ditched my car within the first year and have been 100% bicycle commuting for the last 8+ years.”

All Steel Bridge deliveries are made by bikes outfitted with heavy-duty trailers that Penner designed and built himself.  Peddling about 3,000 miles in 2014, Penner delivers rain or shine, sleet or snow.  He hasn’t missed a single appointment.

“To me,” he says, “the environment seems like the most pressing issue that people of my generation are facing, or will face.  To me, trying to do all of the small things towards making a more sustainable future, just makes sense.”

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Pacific islanders seek health justice Thu, 19 Feb 2015 07:02:06 +0000 Thousands of people who live in Oregon legally, who pay federal, state and taxes and who struggle with high rates of radiation-related diseases such as cancer and endocrine disorders due to US government nuclear tests – do not receive either Medicaid or SSI.

On February 9, these people petitioned the Oregon House Committee on Health Care to take steps towards equitable health coverage.  Supporting them were US military veterans who were involved in creating the radiation exposure.

The bill meant to begin to repair the damage was HB2522, sponsored by Brian Clem (D – Salem) and the people affected are the Marshallese, former inhabitants of three Pacific island nations located north of Australia and east of Guam who have a unique relationship with the United States.

Irradiating the Marshallese islands

Between 1946 and 1958 the US Atomic Energy Commission tested 67 nuclear weapons on the three island nations without the knowledge or consent of the people who lived there.  One weapon, “Castle Bravo” was 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  The repeated testing contaminated more than 7,000 square miles of ocean and islands with widespread nuclear fallout.  In some areas, island readings are still extremely high; up to 7600 milligrays of ionizing radiation (compared to typical readings of 10 milligrays in most places in Oregon.)

The islands experience high rates of poverty and pervasive health problems such as cancer, birth defects and chronic illnesses that are directly tied to nuclear testing.


NAAV veterans testify on behalf of Marshallese health rights

Gary Smith, State of Oregon Commander of the National Association of Atomic Veterans, (NAAV,) an association of US military veterans who were themselves subjected to radiation exposure as part of their service to country, was one of those who spoke in favor of HB2522.  Smith told Committee Chair Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D – Portland) and other members, “I don’t want to try to moralize or rationalize what our country did.  As a victim of ionized radiation, I know what the ravages of it are.  The Marshall Islanders, through not fault of their own, were subjected to several times what I went though.  The American government owes these people a debt we can’t replay.  My taxes going towards their health care is a well-spent tax dollar.”

The reasons Marshall Islanders don’t already receive full health coverage has to do with US treaties and legislation that occurred after the end of testing and the evolving nature of the relationship between the islands and the US government.


The three island nations, The Republic of the Marshall Islands, The Republic of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia, are considered “freely associated states” with the United States.  They relate to the US under the provisions of a unique treaty – the “Compact of Free Association,” or COFA.

In exchange for allowing the US exclusive military control over the region, COFA nations are treated as neither quite foreign nor quite American.  They are legally independent nations, but benefit from the military protection of the US, and use the US Postal Service and the US dollar.  Treaties in 1986 gave most island citizens the right to live, study and work in the United States without work permits or visas, and access to driver’s license and health benefits like U.S. citizens.

However, important numbers of these rights ended in 1996, when the national Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act stripped COFA immigrants of their eligibility for most federal benefits, including Medicaid.  It did this by excluding them from the eligibility category of “qualified immigrants.”

Now, unless they are born in the US, Marshallese people in Oregon live, like the nations they came from, between categories.  Neither American citizen or illegal immigrant but defined instead as “permanent nonimmigrant,” they reside here legally and pay all state, federal and local taxes, (including those that support health benefits for American citizens.)  Their young people volunteer for the US armed services in much higher per capita rates than the children of regular US citizens.  But they are not eligible for Medicaid or SSI.

About 9,000 COFA people live in Oregon; up to 5,400 of them are affected.


Marshall islanders listen to testimony at legislature

Joe Enlet, President of COFA Alliance National Network (CANN), an Oregon-based non-profit that advocates for COFA people, presented the House Committee on Health Care with these numbers.  He described thousands who “are excluded from Medicaid benefits and medical safety nets; we work diligently, we pay all our taxes… many of our children go into the military… and many pay with their lives.”

Jesper Angelo, a CANN member, says, “I find it interesting that a country wouldn’t give Medicaid to a population it has irradiated.”

NAAV National Commander, Fred Schafer, who was present when 32 nuclear test explosions were set off over the Pacific Proving Grounds in 1962, told the committee, “I know first hand what these people are going through.  I wish none of us had gone through this.  I support these people in any way I can.”

The bill in question

HB2522 takes a step towards securing health care rights for Marshallese people.  If passed, it would establish funding for a new office within the Oregon Health Authority.

The entity would be called The Islander Health Coverage Gap Assessment Office and the bill describes its goal as “to promote access to health care for islanders” and ensure they have the “same health care as United States citizens residing in Oregon.”

Lloyd Henion, a member of the CANN board, told legislators that HB2522 would allow Oregon to “take important steps in correcting another important oversight that has been allowed to continue for far to long to these people to whom we owe so much.”

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Salem ‘Attack’ owl no joke Thu, 19 Feb 2015 06:56:27 +0000 The celebrated barred owl that has dive-bombed several pedestrians and joggers in Bush Pasture Park since January 20th is no laughing matter, naturalists say.

On February 5, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow suggested a bright yellow warning sign be posted around the park, something that City of Salem Parks and Transportation has since done.  On February 11, locals voted to name the bird, “Owlcapone” in a poll organized by the Statesman Journal.

But the barred owl is an invasive species in Oregon wich has radically diminished the population of the Northern Spotted Owl, native to the area.  And the spotted owl is important, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) says.

“’Owlcapone’ is notorious.. for doing far more damage to the spotted owl than to human heads,” says a local naturalist who objects to the Salem community “naming them like pets.”

“The Northern Spotted Owl is listed as threatened in Oregon, Washington and California,” says Martin Nugent, Endangered Species Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.  He says the spotted owl is fighting for survival against the more aggressive barred owl, which began in the 1980s to steal spotted owl nest sites in the Pacific Northwest.

Since its 1990 picture on the cover of Time magazine, the spotted owl is one of the best-known species in Oregon.

The barred owl’s historical range was on the east coast, from Maine down to Florida.  A “bigger, meaner bird,” according to a 2009 Smithsonian article, the owl crossed the Great Plains at the beginning of the 20th Century.  Nugent calls the barred owl a “fairly vicious predator,” and scientists assert that it disrupts the nesting of the smaller, gentler spotted owl species, competes with them for food and – on some occasions, kills them.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has identified competition from barred owls as “one of two main threats to the northern spotted owl’s continued survival (habitat loss is the other)” according to Oregon Fish and Wildlife.

Because of the severity of the threat, USFWS has made plans to experimentally “remove” (shoot) barred owls in a small part of its range in Washington, Oregon and California.  USFWS says, “If the experimental removal of barred owls results in improved spotted owl populations,” USFWS says, it may consider proposing wider removals “as part of a barred owl management strategy.”

Currently the removal plan, whose decision was signed in September 2013, has been implemented in California, and its results are being studied there – but funding delays and limitations have postponed its initiation in Oregon.

USFWS says the removal of members of a common species to protect a rare species “is only used in the most serious conservation situations.”  Prior to proceeding, it would conduct a separate environmental review, with an extensive public review and comment, before making a decision.

The Northern Spotted Owl has been involved in controversy since 1990, when it was put on the Endangered Species list, to the dismay of the timber industry, which said it needed to log old-growth forests in order to survive.

“From the environmentalists’ perspective,” say the Markkula Center for Applied Ethic’s Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez,” the benefits of preserving the northern spotted owl and its habitat far outweigh any of the costs.”

Andre and Velasquez argue that saving the spotted owl would save an entire ecosystem on which plants, other animals, and humans depend. “The spotted owl is considered an indicator species — a gauge of the health of the ecosystem that provides its habitat. The steady decline of this species signals the demise of other species.”

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Access to public records diminished by Marion County Commissioners Thu, 19 Feb 2015 06:53:26 +0000 Marion County Commissioners Kevin Cameron, Janet Carlson and Sam Brentano have eliminated the public’s ability to search property by owner’s name on the Marion County Assessor’s web site.

Citing privacy concerns at meetings in October and December 2014, the Commissioners elected to remove the link on the Assessor’s site that has allowed public searches of property owned by individuals and companies.

Marion County Assessor Tom Rohlfing provided data to the commissioners at the December meeting, showing that of twelve comparable Oregon counties, only three others did not provide a search by property owner’s name on their site.

Property records, collected by the county for property tax assessment and collection purposes, are generally considered public information, though some exceptions are made by state statute for judges, law enforcement officials and certain victims of crime.

Although the Commissioners did not respond to personal requests for comment, Marion County Public Information Officer Jolene Kelley, speaking on their behalf, says, “Given concerns about identity theft and safety sensitive situations, it seemed prudent to provide some protections around personal information.”

Kelley adds that the county’s Information Technology (IT) staff “also expressed concerns about potential exposure to spam and phishing attempts from outside the country.”

“I hear from property owners with different perspectives,” Rolfing told Salem Weekly.  “One perspective questions ‘Why do you publicize information about me on your website?’  Another perspective questions ‘Why isn’t all information at my fingertips?’”

The function was removed in late January.

Rolfing says, that the information is still available at no charge; rather than looking up the information online, the enquiring party may phone the Assessor’s staff and ask staff to research what an individual owns.

The Property Records page is the highest used page on the Assessor’s website, with 1,497,843 searches between July 2013 and July 2014.

“Staff workload and efficiencies have been considered by the Commissioners and myself,” prior to making the change to an all-phone call system, Rolfing says.

On other occasions, Rohlfing has indicated that the County might, in the future, review requests for ownership to see if they are deemed appropriate, and that future requests might need to be approved by county legal counsel.

Additionally, the Assessor’s site has removed the link that once provided pictures of properties.  “This information did not help us significantly to perform our mission,” Rolfing says, “and the only feedback we received was negative.”  Some owners complained at the intrusion, or said the photo was not flattering or that something personal was contained in the photo.

The commissioners’ action means that public access to formerly-public information is markedly curtailed.  No statement by a candidate, official or company about property they own in Marion County can be verified except by either checking each of tens of thousands of property listings individually by address, or by phoning the Assessor’s office.

“The commissioners’ interest is in providing some security measures around access to personal information that could be used for illegal purposes including fraud, and personal safety considerations such as stalking or domestic violence situations,” Kelley says.

At an unspecified date later this spring, Rohlfing will provide the commissioners with an update on how the new system is working.  At that time he will give feedback on how the change is affecting calls into the Assessor’s office.

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New bill would make it easier to register to vote in Oregon Thu, 19 Feb 2015 06:52:35 +0000 House Bill 2177, which directs the Department of Transportation to provide the Secretary of State with electronic records of the name, legal age and other information about people eligible to vote in Oregon, has passed successfully through several committees and appears headed for passage into law.

Known as “New Motor Voter”, the bill, supported by the Oregon Secretary of State and the League of Women Voters is intended to help typically underrepresented individuals participate in political dialogue.

After receiving Department of Transportation information on individuals, the Secretary of State would register each as an elector, and send them a notice that would include information on how to decline registration and how to adopt party affiliation.

Backers say the New Motor Voter bill would make voter registration more secure and more accurate.  It would lower processing costs for the old Motor Voter program that relied solely on paper forms and would streamline the process of determining eligibility, as the DMV is required to capture the information necessary to show voter eligibility.  HB 2177 also includes privacy protections for confidential records and early registrants.

The bill has received consistent recommendations to pass since its first introduction on January 12 and is scheduled for second and third reading this Friday.

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Naturalist ‘crowdfunds’ goats for salem’s ivy removal Thu, 19 Feb 2015 06:49:57 +0000 In 1992, the Gehlar and Schneulle families donated seven acres of wooded hillside to the Salem Audubon Society to be used as a nature reserve.  The unique West Salem urban forest serves as a wildlife habitat, educational resource and walking opportunity for the community.

However, like many areas in the Willamette Valley, the Nature Reserve acreage is troubled by English Ivy, Himalayan blackberries, Scotch broom and other invasive species.  For more than ten years, local volunteers have visited every Wednesday to remove the plants with shovels, pruners, thick gloves and hard work.

But one two-acre patch has proven too steep and dense to clear.

Salem naturalist and photographer Stephanie Hazen has developed a solution: she will use Indiegogo as a crowdfunding source, and rent goats to attack the problem once and for all.

“Goats are made for the task,” Hazen says.  “Nimble and sure-footed, goats efficiently de-vegetate land that is too steep, too thickly vegetated, and too littered with rocks, holes and downed limbs to be safely accessed by people.  The thick vines, larger stems, and roots left remaining are much easier to see and get to for hand pulling.”

Early this year, Salem City Council approved the use of goats within city limits for targeted grazing of invasive plant species.  Hazen’s goal is not only to remove the ivy, but to also increase general awareness of methods for dealing with invasive plant species in Oregon.

She hopes that she can raise enough for 70 goats to visit the Nature Reserve the week of April 19-26, “to coincide with Earth Day.”  Volunteers would be at the site to educate the public.

“The goats can clear 2 acres in 7-to-10 days for $2,500.  I would like to raise $5,000,” Hazen says, “so we could invite the goats back later in the year.”

As her crowdfunding plan develops in upcoming weeks, interested parties can contact Hazen for information at

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Agriculture next Salem City Club topic Thu, 19 Feb 2015 05:52:13 +0000 Katy Coba was raised on a wheat ranch in Pendleton, Oregon.  Her brother and she are the fifth generation to work land that was homesteaded by their ancestors.

Coba has also served as Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture since 2003, and will be the next presenter to speak at the Salem City Club.

“I have a deep appreciation for Oregon agriculture and what it means,” Coba says, “not only for our state’s economy, but also as a part of our history and culture.”

This spring the Salem City Club is presenting three programs on the topic of Marion and Polk County agriculture.  Coba’s remarks, “Oregon Agriculture, Opportunities and Challenges,” will be the first.

“Oregon agriculture is very diverse and abundant,” Coba says.  “It is a part of Oregon that I am committed to, and as Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, an industry that the agency works hard to support, promote and ensure its viability for future generations of Oregonians.”

Katy Coba, Director, Oregon Department of Agriculture

“Oregon Agriculture: Opportunities and Challenges”

Salem City Club

Willamette Heritage Center at the Mill

1313 Mill St. SE, Salem

Feb 27, 2015

Doors open 11:30, program begins at noon

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Oregon White Oak A naturalist’s perspective Thu, 05 Feb 2015 07:17:13 +0000 By Don Boucher, photos by Lisa Millbank

Oregon White Oaks are an important part of Willamette Valley life, and more recently, Salem city politics.  But what do naturalists think about this important life form?  Naturalist Dan Boucher, publisher of Neighborhood Naturalist, shares his insights.

The Oregon White Oak is the Willamette Valley’s main species of native oak. The biodiversity associated with the Oregon White Oak make the places it grows a top conservation priority. For millennia, people have depended on the tree – and as it turns out, it has depended on people too.

The leaves turn an unglamorous brown in autumn, but otherwise, whether in cities or natural areas, an oak woodland is a colorful place. Attached to many of the leaves are golden spheres with purple-brown spots called Speckled Galls. Nearby there are orange- and red-colored leaves of Western Poison- oak and Serviceberry. The scattered bits of white are the puffy fruits of Common Snowberry.

The depth of the plant community among the oaks can be seen through the course of the seasons. In winter, clusters of Pacific Mistletoe are easy to see among the leafless crowns. A distinctive collection of lichens and mosses grow on every part of the tree. Rare species of moss have been found on the trunks of some old oaks. In spring and summer, the spaces between oaks are decorated with native wildflowers.

Many migrant bird species favor Willamette Valley oak woodlands for breeding. Surveys of Oregon White Oak woodlands in the Willamette Valley yielded 26 tropical migrants compared to 17 found in the nearby conifer forests.

It’s a good habitat for year-round species too. Old, gnarled oaks offer some of the most abundant natural cavities for nesting birds. A subspecies of the White-breasted Nuthatch lives year-round in our area, called the “Slender-billed Nuthatch,” is strongly affiliated with Oregon White Oaks. This subspecies is declining and often uses oak cavities for nesting. Our population of American Kestrels are also in decline, and they use these cavities for nesting as well. Oak cavities are used by mammals like Western Gray Squirrels. Root bases become burrowing opportunities for Townsend’s Chipmunks, California Ground Squirrels and Striped Skunks. Mistletoe, snowberry and poison-oak fruits provide important winter food for many birds. In addition, there are numerous invertebrate and fungal relationships that oaks support.

Acorns feed creatures like squirrels, Acorn Woodpeckers, jays and insects in cities, and in natural areas, bears, deer and foxes.  The acorn crop varies dramatically from year to year; every three or five years, there are almost none, while other years may produce a staggering abundance. The processes behind this synchronized, variable production are complex and not entirely understood.

To make matters more complicated, some acorn-eaters factor significantly into the oaks’ reproductive strategy. Western Scrub-Jays cache acorns, and often put away more than they can eat. They may forget some, and some jays die before eating all their cached acorns. The result is that their caching activity inevitably leads to the germination of scattered acorns that don’t get eaten.

In centuries past, acorns were a staple for the Kalapuya people. Acorns contain tannin, which makes them too bitter for people when unprocessed, but tannin can be removed with water. The Kalapuya used a lengthy process that involved grinding and then soaking the acorns, or steaming them in a basket. Another process was to bake the acorns whole, and then bury them in saturated clay until winter.

When the Kalapuya culture dominated the area, until about 200 years ago, the valley had large savannas with scattered, ancient oaks and hillsides of oak forests. The Kalapuya managed this landscape with fire. Old, fire-resistant oaks thrived, and the people benefited from an abundance of plant foods like camas, yampah, tarweed and acorns, as well as favorable hunting conditions.

Today only fragments of the original oak savannas remain, and it can be a challenge to keep invasive shrubs out. Modern methods of control involve prescribed fires, mowing and/or limited use of herbicides. Elsewhere, the trees are common, but they largely exist in dense, closed-canopy stands that lack the biodiversity of the oak savannas. In the foothills, fast-growing Douglas-Firs and Bigleaf Maples are overrunning oak forests.

Why did the Kalapuya need to engage in large-scale land management at all? For several thousand years after the last glacial maximum, Douglas-Fir forests covered the valley. About 6,000 years ago, the climate got drier, and Oregon White Oaks took over. The ancestors of the Kalapuya thrived in this landscape. Then, about 4,000 years ago, the climate became wetter, but the people learned that they could keep the oak savannas going with selective burning.

If it weren’t for the Kalapuya, the first European explorers may have arrived in a Willamette Valley covered with Douglas-Fir and Bigleaf Maple forests.

Beyond the biodiversity and historical importance, many modern people find something inherently pleasing about the Oregon White Oak, whether in cities or in the few remaining natural oak savannas. The large trees with spreading crowns have character and beauty all their own.

Don Boucher is a birder and naturalist in Corvallis. His passion for local nature led him to found the Neighborhood Naturalist program in 2003. Don leads field trips, teaches classes, writes, illustrates and produces video with the goal of educating mid-Willamette Valley residents about the natural environment around them. Don’s day job is a graphic design adviser for Orange Media Network at OSU.

Lisa Millbank has been exploring nature since childhood. Since 2004 she has shared her interest in local nature as a field trip guide, class instructor, writer, illustrator and photographer for the Neighborhood Naturalist program. She served as the Field Notes coordinator for the Audubon Society of Corvallis from 2011 through 2014. Lisa’s day job is at the First Alternative Natural Foods Co-op. Learn more about Don and Lisa’s work and get a free subscription at Learn more about Don and Lisa’s work and get a free subscription at



The Many “Quercs” of Salem

In pre-colonial America, Quercus garryana, or Oregon White Oak, no doubt kept the tribes that lived among them alive and well. But these trees had many uses beyond being a critically important food staple. The bark was collected from young or fallen branches in the spring and brewed into a tea, which is a strong astringent due to its high tannin content. This made the bark useful for treating diarrhea, internal hemorrhaging, goitres, and even Tuberculosis. Today, white oak bark is often a main ingredient in tooth powder, as it is known to tighten the gums and polish the teeth. The springtime buds were traditionally made into a tea and applied to inflamed skin, hemorrhoids, or to bring down fever. The acorns were, in fact, a medicine as well as a food. They were roasted and brewed into a coffee-like beverage, and used to treat scrofula, rashes, and hysteria. The galls were even gathered and used as a dye and an ink.

But before you go thinking that there aren’t many modern, practical uses for the mighty oak, find links below for delectable recipes like Plum and Acorn Custard Tart, Acorn Gnocchi, and Acorn Chocolate Chip Cookies. Maybe acorn collecting will also become your favorite family past time!

Written by Kristi Shapla an herbalist and massage therapist at Hawthorne’s,

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Oregon’s egg-laying hens; get how much room? Thu, 05 Feb 2015 07:14:25 +0000 Recent changes in California​ ​for the space given egg-laying hens have renewed questions from Oregon animal advocates about our own egg supply.

About 300 million egg-laying hens, more than 90% of the hens that produce eggs for consumption in the United States, live in conditions set by the industry behemoth, the United Egg Producers (UEP.)  The birds live in factory farm “battery cages” where each is given 67 square inches of space.  That means less than 8 ¼” x 8 ¼” of room per hen, without the freedom to perform most natural functions, or room to move in any natural way, for her entire life.

On January 1, 2015, two animal welfare laws took effect in California; the first, a result of that state’s 2008 Proposition 2 ballot measure, means that all egg-laying hens in California now have room to lay down, turn around freely, stand up and fully extend their limbs.  The second, the result of a 2010 bill that passed the California legislature, means that all hens farmed out of state whose whole eggs are sold in California, must have been raised in the same living conditions.

Exact dimensions are not codified into the laws.  “The Animal Welfare Standard, doesn’t actually specify size,” says Paul Shapiro, Vice President of Farm Animal Production for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which participated in the Proposition 2 campaign.  Shapiro says he expects the new standard in California to be about 200 square inches per bird.

“When we confine animals in conditions like 67 square inches so that they can hardly move, it’s not just cruelty but bad business,” Shapiro says.  “There are many studies that show you get more salmonella when you lock animals in tiny cages – you’re hurting animals and consumers at the same time.”

More than 30 countries have joined California in banning, or phasing out, battery cages for their egg-laying hens.

At this time, more than 90% of Oregon’s eggs are still laid by hens confined to the 67 square inch standard.  Legislation was passed in 2011 (SB805) that is changing this; it gives Oregon egg producers 15 years to give their hens more space, called “enriched colony housin g” at 116 square inches each.

Oregon’s largest egg producer, Willamette Egg Farm, is installing this new standard of housing far ahead of the 2026 deadline, says Amy Wood, of Harvest PR, Willamette Egg Farm’s spokesperson.  Wood says that approximately 25% of Willamette’s eggs are already produced in compliance with the new 116 sq inch requirement.

But 75% of the hens are not.  The reason, says Willamette Egg Farm owner Greg Satrum, is economic.  In a company video he remarks that the “cage free” eggs Willamette Egg Farm produces cost the company 40 – 60% more than the conventional eggs they also produce, because the birds use more calories when they move around.

Satrum admits that when observers see 188,000 hens crowded into his battery cages, they can be shocked.  But conventional industry methods are used to keep end-user cost down.  “Consumers are so consistent in what they want,” Satrum says.  “They want a high quality product and they want it at a low price.”  Willamette Egg Farm produces “cage free” and organic eggs as well as conventional eggs, Satrum says, and in tough economic times, “consumers should have choices.”

Animal advocates like the HSUS and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (ASPCA,) feel that federal standards are needed to keep egg-laying hens from the “great misery” of battery cages both for humane reasons and also so that producers who confine their hens more aggressively do not have an end-user price advantage Satrum mentions.

“By the numbers, birds are by far the most abused type of animal in the United States,” says the ASPCA.  “300 million [chickens] languish in tiny cages producing our country’s eggs. All birds —egg-laying hens, meat chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and others—are excluded from all federal animal protection laws.”

Oregon Representative Kurt Schrader (D,) a veterinarian has introduced two bills in Washington D.C. to enlarge hen cage size and create other benefits for hens across the country.  In 2012, he introduced HR3798.  Remarkably, both the industry group, UEP, and HSUS supported the bill.

Willamette Egg Farm supported it as well.  “We hoped those joint efforts would have resulted in national hen welfare standards,” Wood says.

The bill would have provided room for perches and nesting boxes, and prohibited “forced molting,” a practice where hens are deprived of nutrition to shock their bodies into a final laying cycle before slaughter, and it would have made American Veterinary Medical Association-approved euthanasia mandatory.

The bill failed.  Schrader made another attempt; his HR 1731 in 2013 attempted to achieve the same goals – and also failed.

“Representative Schrader admirably tried to bring these bills to enactment,” Shapiro says.  “But, ultimately the beef and pork industry killed them because they don’t want the public looking into their practices; if you release chickens from these extreme forms of animal torture, then people start looking at other animals in other extreme confinement systems.”

Chris Huckleberry, Schrader’s Deputy Chief of Staff, says the collaboration “between the Humane Society and UEP was a unique partnership” and he regrets that “the two did not renew their agreement to work together in the future.”

Shapiro and the HSUS do not believe Schrader’s bill, or another national bill like it, will be considered in Washington anytime soon.  “Representative Schrader’s noble effort was derailed,” he says, “and we’ll probably see more and more of these policies implemented at the state level, like California.”

​Consumers who investigate will find that even commercial “free range” egg-laying hens are housed indoors, experience crowded conditions and live brief, unenriched lives.  Animal advocates advise the public to exercise both their voting power in the legislators and bills they support, and their purchasing power in the market.

​UEP and its PR agency, CMA, were asked repeatedly for their perspective for this story and declined to comment.​

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Salem Planning Commission moving towards more realtors Thu, 05 Feb 2015 07:10:15 +0000 In a meeting marked by division, Salem City Council voted on January 26 to direct staff to prepare documents so it could vote on allowing another member of the Planning Commission to be “principally involved” in real estate, on allowing more than one member of the Planning Commission to be “engaged in the same kind of business, trade or profession” and to increase Planning Commission members from 7 to 9 people.

Planning Commission members are interviewed by, voted on and appointed by, the City Council.

City council members Chuck Bennett and Tom Anderson debate Planning Commission membership

City council members Chuck Bennett and Tom Andersen debate Planning Commission membership

Ward 1 Counselor Chuck Bennett and Ward 2 Counselor Tom Andersen argued that although the Planning Commission might benefit by an increase to 9 members, the real estate members allowed should not be increased, nor should there be more than one member allowed from the same kind of business.

“Designating spots on the Planning Commission is a big mistake,” Bennett said.  He said the group had just interviewed “8 or 9” people, none of whom were “from the real estate industry, and they were all very highly qualified.”

Saying the matter was “highly controversial in this community,” Bennett said it was “absolutely a mistake” to change the limit on members from the same business.

“Always enlarging citizen involvement on something as important – and as controversial – as the Planning Commission, Bennett said, “is important.”

Anderson concurred, remarking “it doesn’t seem we have any problem getting people to be on the planning commission.”  He cited reviewing “five or six” recent applicants and said, “they all looked very qualified to me.”

Conservative members of the City Council strongly disagreed.

Ward 3’s Brad Nanke noted that the city has struggled in the past to fill Commissions and by limiting members to only one involved in real estate, “we lose potentially superb candidates down the road.”

Warren Bednarz of Ward 7, involved in three real estate related businesses himself, also argued for allowing more real-estate employed members.

Ward 8’s Jim Lewis, an executive officer with the Salem Association of Realtors, said that the number of potential real estate industry people should be expanded, saying that the “practical expertise” of those involved in the work was valuable to Planning Commission.  “That expertise is needed on the Planning Commission, and I’ll continue to argue that way.”

Mayor Anna Peterson agreed with those seeking more real estate members.  She said, “I believe there is a value to seeking out individuals with expertise and knowledge in real estate and development.”  She added that “when cities across the state are functioning perfectly well with two involved in real estate, it seems the City of Salem is limiting itself” not to do so.

Ward 6 Counselor Diana Dickey repeatedly asked that more precise definitions be provided for phrases like “principlably involved,” asking, “at least give a little guidance” for individuals screening candidates.  But City Attorney Dan Atchison indicated that the “dictionary definition” had adequately served so far without the need for more precision.

Mayor Anna Peterson has responded to assertions that her interest in the expansion of possible real estate members on the Planning Commission has to do with her high regard for Ian Levin or Nate Levin, both developers, by saying they are false.

“That was never the case,” she says.

The next step will be for City Staff to produce an ordinance for the City Council to vote on.  Observers of the Council meeting say it appears certain the ordinance will pass, with Councilors Bennett and Andersen objecting.

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