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Getting Involved with Climate 

Two conferences in Bend target conservation, energy

Demonstrations like the recent Global Climate Strike can mark a first step toward system-wide change.

The next steps can be a little less clear.

In Bend, two upcoming climate-related conferences offer various paths and ideas for those who want to get involved.

click image NASA
  • NASA

Surfrider Foundation's Newport chapter—along with Central Oregon Community College's Outdoor Leadership Program, The Environmental Center and Latino Outdoors—will host the first Central Oregon Conservation Summit in Bend this weekend. The all-day event Saturday, Sept. 28 at COCC's Willie Hall will feature panels on climate change, tourism, conflicts among outdoor users and other topics.

On Sunday, participants will meet at Miller's Landing Park in Bend to carpool for a cleanup at Sparks Lake, then return to the park for a closing barbecue. The summit costs $35 and includes gifts and food. Proceeds will benefit the Oregon Lakes Association and its work researching algae blooms.

"A lot of people don't know how to get involved," said Rane Johnson-Stempson, membership chair of the Surfrider Foundation's Newport chapter, that includes Bend. "Here is how you can get involved."

Rane Johnson-Stempson - SUBMITTED
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  • Rane Johnson-Stempson

Johnson-Stempson expects the summit, held on National Public Lands Day, to help average people learn about climate change, wildfires, wildlife, trail and outdoor issues, local planning efforts, research, projects and challenges—for instance, why federal agencies take steps like implementing a permit system for wilderness areas.

Lara Jansen, a researcher with Portland State University's Environmental Science and Management, will speak on a panel about user conflict in the outdoors. Jansen plans to talk about ways outdoor users can help—including citizen science efforts and apps—on some of the environmental concerns such as the algae blooms that can sicken people and dogs, the spread of invasive species, dumped trash and the impacts from activities such as camping and boating.

Damon Runberg, a regional economist at the Oregon Employment Department, will speak on a panel about responsible tourism. Runberg noted how the growth in tourism aligns with the region's population growth—so while locals may like to blame tourists, visitors shouldn't bear all the blame. For instance, locals, as much as visitors, could be crowding parking at Sparks Lake.

click to enlarge Damon Runberg - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Damon Runberg

"We like to point fingers at the other," Runberg said, but conserving and preserving well-loved resources is everyone's responsibility. Runberg noted the way the Pacific Northwest and the local region have handled some issues, including funneling people to certain trails and visiting sites; or paving a trail at Bend's city limits off Haul Road, avoiding harm to wildlife but still letting people easily access the outdoors close to town. Another issue that has come up is the van-life trend of parked vehicles in town—bringing concerns about trash and camping.

"That's sort of a new phenomenon that we didn't have 10 years ago," Runberg said.

But now is a good time to consider tourism topics, as visitor numbers haven't risen too high to handle, Runberg noted. And this is a chance for anyone to be heard and give ideas.

"We're sort of in a great position to take a deep breath," and plan, he said.

Go Clean Energy 2019

Another climate-related conference takes place in Bend Thursday, Oct. 3. Go Clean Energy 2019 marks nonprofit 350 Deschutes' third event.

Diane Hodiak, executive director of 350 Deschutes, expects the event will help people figure out some of the energy, home and vehicle incentives, rebates and other programs they could use—but that can be complicated to work through. Hodiak also expects the event to be a hub where builders, developers, business people and government officials who implement programs and policies can share information.

"The conference is very how-to, and we want to help people—make it easy for them," Hodiak said.

Cassie Lacy, sustainability coordinator for the City of Bend, plans to talk about the city's community climate action plan the City Council could soon adopt. Strategies within that plan aim to help Bend hit its targets for reducing its fossil fuel use.

"Completing the plan is definitely very much the beginning of all of this work," Lacy said, noting that decisions will have to be made about implementing the various strategies.

click to enlarge Cassie Lacy - SUBMITTED
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  • Cassie Lacy

Meeting climate goals will need everyone's participation, Lacy said, and the conference offers a time to show how.

Stephen Aiguier, founder and president of Green Hammer, a Portland firm that focuses on environmentally-friendly building, plans to discuss zero-net energy homes and the savings they show in utility costs.

"It's similar to driving a Prius," Aiguier said, adding that most people have no idea about the energy score of homes they buy.

Aiguier pointed to the recent climate strike and younger people who want different homes.

"I know that there's an unmet demand," he said. "The market is changing."

Andrea Breault, senior transit planner with Cascades East Transit, will talk about future transportation options—but is really looking for public feedback on those possibilities. Right now, local leaders are developing a master plan to expand transportation services in Central Oregon. That includes such options as deviating buses from fixed routes for a nearly door-to-door or on-demand service; using a fleet of smaller vehicles for group rides; combining with bike-share, car-share, Uber and Lyft services to help riders reach bus stops and stations; and changing routes where possible so that riders can stay on the same bus. The strategies that wind up in the final plan, expected in summer 2020, could then get grant funding, Breault noted.

"We always appreciate public feedback," Breault said. "Not just those who ride the system, but those who usually don't ride and why."

Central Oregon Conservation Summit
Sat., Sept. 28, all day
COCC-Willie Hall
Sun., Sept. 29, 8:30am
meet at Miller's Landing Park
55 NW Riverside Blvd., Bend
$35, including gifts and food
https://newport.surfrider.org/our-work/central-oregon-conservation-summit-balancing-recreation-conservation/

Go Clean Energy Conference 2019
Thu., Oct. 3
Trinity Episcopal Church
469 NW Wall St., Bend
$35, including meal and drinks, using the promo code 350d
https://gocleanenergy.org


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