To protect the environment, count on John Kitzhaber

Even in light of the BP disaster’s toll on both the environment and the economy of the Gulf States, Dudley is apparently still open to oil and gas drilling off the Oregon coast.

By Stephen Kafoury of Portland, Oregon. Stephen is a former Oregon legislator, and currently serves as board chair of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, which has endorsed John Kitzhaber for governor.

Oregon’s 2010 election is incredibly important to protecting the air, water, land and wildlife in our beautiful state. At the top of the ballot is the race for governor, presenting an opportunity to elect the most pro-environment candidate to Oregon’s top post since Governor Tom McCall: John Kitzhaber. Kitzhaber is not just the better environmental candidate; he’s the only environmental candidate.

Kitzhaber has already contributed immensely to Oregon’s natural legacy. I can state without exaggeration that for eight hard years as governor, John Kitzhaber singlehandedly protected the state’s natural resources from those who would have despoiled them. He staved off almost continuous attacks on Oregon’s air, water and land from the then anti-conservation legislature. He vetoed 47 bills that would have damaged Oregon’s environment and quality of life, including bills that would have reduced protection of water and air quality, harmed fish and wildlife habitat, lessened protection of farm and forest lands, and weakened the State Endangered Species Act.

In addition to Kitzhaber’s courageous defense of Oregon’s unique quality of life, he also developed innovative solutions for some of our conservation quandaries. He created the Oregon Plan, which protected Oregon’s Coho salmon while keeping federal regulators out of the state. In this effort, Kitzhaber mobilized thousands of landowners, community groups and other volunteers who are still working in the local watershed councils he established to improve habitat and preserve our salmon.

While Kitzhaber’s record is clear, Chris Dudley’s is not. Dudley has no political experience, and what he has said publicly about the environment is worrisome. For example, even in light of the BP disaster’s toll on both the environment and the economy of the Gulf States, Dudley is apparently still open to oil and gas drilling off the Oregon coast.

In the May primary election, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters invited Dudley, along with other Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates, to participate in an environmental debate. Of those invited, only Dudley declined, citing a scheduling conflict (an excuse he also used to refuse participation in the longstanding newspaper association debate). OLCV has tried on other occasions to talk to Dudley about Oregon’s environmental priorities, but he has yet to take us up on an invitation. Dudley’s lack of even a basic willingness to talk about what Oregonians care about most can lead me to only one conclusion: I can’t count on Chris Dudley to protect Oregon’s environment.

But I can count on John Kitzhaber. I’ve known John for 30 years and I’ve worked closely with him on a variety of environmental issues. It is clear what he stands for: protecting our children’s health by keeping our water and our air clean; preserving our iconic natural resources, which feed our state’s top industries and provide nationally recognized recreation and habitat; and creating jobs by investing in renewable energy produced here in Oregon.

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    John Kitzhaber is an avid flyfisherman which has brought him close to the outdoors and the ecosystems that support sport and commercial fisheries. He has great support and ties among these conservation groups.

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