Environmental Organizations in the Walla Walla Area

By: Alison Jones



Umatilla Forest Watch


UFW was officially started in February 2000 and currently has about 350 members.  It was established in order to provide people and organizations with an opportunity to join together and promote long term protection of Umatilla National Forest Ecosystems.  It seeks to preserve and enhance the natural habitat and ecology of the national forest through timber sale monitoring, fire ecology, roadless areas preservation, and education.  Another goal is to promote greater community awareness about issues in the Umatilla.  A variety of field trips, hikes, and events are available throughout the year for the public and for members.  Meetings are held monthly in coordination with the Blue Mountain Audubon society.  UFW works closely with the Wild Washington Campaign, (http://www.wildwashington.org/index.html), The Land Council (http://www.landscouncil.org/index.html), the Blue Mountain Audubon Society, and the Oregon Wild Campaign (http://www.wildoregon.org/index.html). It also utilizes Whitman college environmental studies students, offering an array of internships dealing with forest related issues.  Bill Gaffney (yogibear@bmi.net) is the main contact and coordinator of the Umatilla Forest Watch.



Blue Mountain Land Trust


            The Blue Mountain Land Trust (BLMT) is a private, non-profit, grassroots organization with a mission to conserve private property and natural resources.  Landowners work with BMLT when they wish to permanently protect the ecological, scenic, historic, or recreational qualities of land they own from unwanted or inappropriate development.

            Blue Mountain Land Trust provides many services to landowners throughout southeast Washington and northeast Oregon, choosing protection strategies that meet landowners’ conservation desires and financial needs.  The Land Trust may become the owner of a particular piece of property, or it may hold the development rights transferred by a conservation easement.  Often, a property owner gains access to reductions in both federal and state taxes by transferring ownership or development rights to the Trust.  Perhaps most importantly, the responsibility as a Land Trust obligates the BMLT, as steward of the conservation values of a property, to maintain a watch over these protected lands forever.


            Currently the trust has over 40 acres under the permanent protection of a voluntary conservation easement, with over 120 acres currently under consideration.  The Blue Mountatin Land Trust web site (www.bmi.net/bmlt) provides helpful links and information, and one may e-mail the Land Trust at: bmlt@bmi.net.



American Rivers


The American Rivers Organization was founded in 1973. Although it does not have a local chapter, it has been influential in local environmental affairs due to the attention it has given to various local rivers.  It is dedicated to the protection and restoration of our nation’s river systems, and to the promotion of public awareness about the importance of healthy rivers. It has worked towards the protection of more than 22,000 miles of nationally and regionally significant rivers and over 5.5 million acres of riverside lands. Of local significance, American Rivers has placed the Columbia and the Snake Rivers on its top ten most endangered rivers list multiple times in the last decade.  The Snake River has been listed six times while the Columbia has been listed eight times.  Most notably, the Columbia and the Snake were listed together as America’s two most endangered rivers in 1991 and the Columbia received the top spot in 1998.  One of the reasons for theh listing of the Snake River is the threat posed by its many dams while the Columbia is endangerd due to problems with Hanford reach (see below).  The Walla Walla River was also listed as the nation’s 18th most endnagered river in 1998 due in large part to agricultural pollution.  (Pictured Above is the Snake River)


Website: http://www.americanrivers.org/



Walla Walla 2020


Walla Walla 2020 was founded in 1988. Its goal is to realize a liveable community in the Walla Walla Area through the planning and undertaking of various projects, and the promotion of practices that will enhance the overall quality of life.  One major accomplishment of this organization has been recycling and waste reduction.  Walla Walla 2020 has been largely responsible for the establishment of the County Recycling and Waste Reduction Committee and the county recycling office. It has worked to promote curbside recycling, and to introduce and promote reusable shopping bags.  Walla Walla 2020 has also done much in the area of transportation.  The City Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee was established with Walla Walla 2020’s help, a walker’s map of the Walla Walla area was distributed throughout the community and the Walla Walla trail project was organized. The bicycle lanes on city streets were also largely due to Walla Walla 2020’s efforts.  In the area of trees and landscaping, Walla Walla 2020 regularly engages in tree planting and maintenance around the Mill Creek Recreation Trail, along Highway 12, and in the Eastgate area.  Earth Day and Arbor week activities are promoted annually, and various city commissions that manage city water and forestry issues have been established.  It has also been involved in efforts to protect farmlands, open space and to promote efficient development, and has worked to restructure community economic development efforts.


Website: http://bigjohn.bmi.net/ww2020


National Audubon Society  


Lower Columbia Basin chapter:


The LCBAS has been defending the Hanford reach for over 30 years.  The Hanford Reach is the longest remaining freeflowing section of the Columbia River. It begins at the foot of the Priest Rapids Dam and extends 51 miles to the slackwaters of the McNary Dam. It has survived intact incidentally due to security requirements of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.  The Hanford Reach provided a migration corridor and critical spawning habitat for fall Chinook Salmon.  It’s White Bluffs (or the Wahluke Slope) are a healthy scrub-steppe ecosystem that provides habitat for many native plants and animals. The Bluffs are home to almost 200 species of birds, but are threatened by irrigation runoff, and agricultural development. Activity such as this has the potential to bury critical salmon spawning beds in sediment. In the past, the proposed dams and dredging canals would have eliminated spawning all together, and these types of threats to the reach are becoming more powerful day by day.  The Hanford Reach was 1998’s most endangered River. (American Rivers)


Walla Walla Chapter


The Walla Walla chapter of the Audubon society was founded in 1971 and has a fairly stable membership of about 250.  The conservative nature of the group is due in large part to its eastern Washington location and to the age breakdown of its members.  Because of the large population of farmers in the area, the group generally does not tackle controversial environmental issues such as the use of pesticides, and instead works to accommodate the views of the locals.  Chapter meetings consist of discussions of local conservation issues, news of recent bird sightings, and a presentation by a guest speaker.  The Walla Walla Chapter Audubon Society has recently been involved in promoting the enforcement of the Washington Growth Management Act and in salmon recovery projects. A current proposal for the construction of 400 wind turbines on Van Sycle Ridge (southwest of Walla Walla) is not supported by the chapter although wind power is traditionally supported by the Audubon Society. The addition of these turbines to those already in existence on Van Sycle Ridge could lead to very high bird mortality rates due to their close proximity to the Wallula Gap (an important bird flyway).  The Walla Walla Chapter has also been especially watchful of the Forest Service’s enforcement of the Roadless Areas Initiative.  The group meets monthly and offers regular bird watching field trips.


Website: http://www.audobon.org



Kooskoosie Commons


Kooskooskie Commons is an organization that is dedicated to creating discussion venues that work towards the promotion and preservation of healthy and diverse landscapes and communities.  In the Nez Perce language, Kooskooskie means “cold, clear water”. With the goal of healthy watersheds, Kooskooskie Commons brings together wheat farmers, interested locals, United States Forest Service personnel, representatives from local wineries, professors and students in discussion forums coined,  “open space meetings”.  Through these meetings and various educational activities, events and festivals, Kooskooskie Commons hopes to foster a sense of mutual history and a respect for the environment.  Along with the promotion of healthy watersheds and the regulation of land use along local rivers, the preservation of salmon is an important area of interest.  Currently, Kooskooskie Commons is involved in the Salmon-people project that gathers local histories and stories having to do with salmon issues and watersheds from different members of the Walla Walla community.  The eventual goal is to develop a plan of action for salmon recovery through the shared sense of history and community fostered by this project. 


Website: http://www.kooskooskiecommons.org




Hanford Downwinders


This organization is a general information resource for “Hanford Downwinders”, or those who have been exposed to toxic radiation from the Hanford Nuclear Plant in eastern Washington. From 1944-1972 Hanford's operations discharged over 440 billion gallons of contaminated liquids into the ground, resulting in approximately 200 square miles of contaminated groundwater beneath Hanford.  The Downwinders in Walla Walla are concerned primarily about airborne radiation releases as radiation emissions have been especially problematic in Walla Walla. These emissions have caused a variety of health problems which have been most promemntly thyroid related.  A pending lawsuit is addressing these issues and attempting to compensate those who were affected by Hanford’s emissions.  This local group is a member of the National Downwinders organization which serves as a resource base and support group for people who have been affected by toxic emissions all over the nation.  The Hanford Downwinders hosts various events that are open to the general public addressing issues pertaining to Hanford operations, environmental contamination and radiation releases, and issues involving adverse health effects to persons exposed to Hanford emissions. 


Website: http://www.downwinder.com




GASP (Group Against Smog and Pollution)  is an organization headed locally by Hermiston resident Karyn Jones. The local chapter is currently working with the Chemical Weapons Working Group ( a group that opposes chemical emissions and the incineration of chemical weapons nationally) in order to halt the incineration of the stored chemical weapons at the Umatilla Army Depot.  Recently, 34 workers were overcome by a toxic vapor while working in close proximity to the chemical weapons incinerator at the Umatilla Army Depot. A lawsuit filed by the workers on July 31 alleges that the toxic vapor contained nerve gas and mustard gas, and that the army failed to test for these agents until three hours after the incident.  CWWG has joined with the injured workers and their attorneys in calling for the suspension of the construction and operation of all Army incinerators pending, and for a thorough investigation of the incident. Karyn Jones is the founder of the local chapter of GASP and is a resident of Hermiston, Oregon.


Website: http://www.cwwg.org



Whitman College Environmental Organizations




Environmental Education for Kids (EEK) is a student organization created to promote environmental education.  EEK visits classrooms at Greenpark, Edison, Blue Ridge, and Assumption Elementary schools where they present a number of environmental and civic lessons for students using discussions, experiments, games and hands on experience.  EEK is has no formal leadership and is therefore completely consensus based.  Students break into small groups to create environmental lesson plans that will engage the interest of elementary age children. 


Action for Animals


Action for Animals educates and involves the Whitman campus on animal welfare issues. Through its activities and events Action for Animals works to create a positive environment for involvement in animal interests. There are a number of different aspects of animal welfare issues that Action for Animals is involved with. These include educating the campus about vegan and vegetarian diets, working with Walla Walla area animals at the local humane society, and promoting animal welfare on the political level. It also alerts the campus to cases of cruelty to animals and provides it with means to take steps against this cruelty. Past Action for Animals activities have included posting lists of cruelty-free products around campus, Humane Society outings creating vegetarian days at food service, boycotting Proctor and Gamble, Vegan potlucks, and the donation of collars to the Humane Society


Website: http://www.whitman.edu/afa/



Walla Walla College Environmental Organizations


Walla Walla College Environmental Club


The environmental club at Walla Walla College is run by John Cole (colejo@wwc.edu) and has about 20 student members.  The group was established in 1990 and meets fairly regularly every other week.  Meetings are usually devoted to discussions of environmental issues and to planning upcoming projects. The group’s activities include regular tree plantings, coordination of community service day’s on campus, and the coordination of the school’s recycling program.


Walla Walla Community College Ecology Club


The Ecology club at the Community College is an active organization that is run by students.  In its nine years of existence the club has been involved in various volunteer projects on both a federal and state level. These include riparian restoration, tree planting, trail maintenance, and seed collection.  The Ecology club is responsible for all on campus recycling and has hosted or been involved in the planning of Earth Day for the past nine years. It brings guest speakers to the school on a regular basis and participates in various fundraisers for needy causes as well as for their annual field trip.  Past field trips have included Yellowstone, Hells Canyon, the Olympic Penninsula, and the California Redwood Forest. The Ecology Clubs faculty advisor is Mike Mahan who can be reached at  527-4692.


Walla Walla High School Ecology Club


The Ecology club has a small student membership of about 15-20 active members who regularly load and pick up all of the recycling done on campus.  They have been involved in various campus projects such as the donation of trees to the campus beautification project.  They help coordinate Earth Week at the High School and are currently involved in the creation of various slogans for the upcoming America Recycles Day.  The club, which has been around for 6-7 years, works to inform students about ways to make their world a better place and is headed by faculty advisor John Hurr (527-3020 ext. 71).



Community-Based Organizations


Girl Scouts

The Walla Walla Girl Scout organization currently has a membership of 113 girls, and nine total Girl Scout troops.  The girls range in age from K-18 and virtually every year prestigious gold or silver scouting awards are given to high school senior girl scouts. Various badges can be achieved in girl scouting for the completion of environmentally beneficial activities.  Volunteer activities that the girl scouts regularly participate in include park cleaning and maintenance, tree planting, and various city service projects. The troops learn about minimal impact camping and about the three R’s (Reuse, Reduce, and Recycle).  The local Girl Scout office in Kennewick can be reached at 1(800) 967-8113


Website: http://www.gsusa.org


Boy Scouts


The Boy Scouts of America regularly participate in environmentally related activities through their conservation program.  This program was designed to promote an awareness and understanding of conservation as a wise and intelligent management of natural resources. The Outdoor Code of the Boy Scouts strives to cultivate attitudes and patterns of behavior that respect the rights of others and make it possible for others and future generations to enjoy the outdoors. The Boy Scouts give regular awards for environmental achievement and can earn various badges for this sort of work.  The Pioneer district of the Blue Mountain Council is responsible for Walla Walla county Boy Scouting.  Nelson Hatch is the district executive and can be reached at (509) 525-7578


Website: http://www.bmcbsa.org