April 22, 2022 is Earth Day, and CNOC Outdoors - through Earth Day Oregon - is excited to team up with the Greater Hells Canyon Council (GHCC) this year to raise awareness to their work, and funding to help them accomplish their goals. During the week of April 15 - 22, 10% of all sales from our website will be donated to GHCC to support their conservation efforts in Northeast Oregon.
The Greater Hells Canyon Council is a conservation organization founded over 50 years ago, in 1967 with the original objective to stop the damming of the Snake River and thereby protect the culturally and biologically significant Hells Canyon. Today, GHCC’s efforts include diverse issues such as logging, grazing, recreation, mining, species protection, wildlife connectivity and more.
GHCC’s mission is to connect, protect, and restore the wild lands, waters, native species and habitats of the Greater Hells Canyon Region, ensuring a legacy of healthy ecosystems for future generations. GHCC’s vision is a region of wild lands and waters where both native species and human communities thrive.
We sat down with Jared Kennedy, the Development Director and Blue Mountains Trail Project Lead to learn more about GHCC (and the Blue Mountains Trail) and ask him a few questions. Please take a look at our conversation and take a moment to learn more about the important work GHCC is doing in Oregon. Please join us in supporting GHCC this week.
What is the Greater Hells Canyon Council/Blue Mountains Trail?
Greater Hells Canyon Council is the leading place-based environmental conservation organization in Northeast Oregon. When we started, we were specifically focused on Hells Canyon, but in the past 40 years, we’ve broadened our work to the public lands across the region. We like to say our work connects place to place, people to place, and people to people, and this is evident in all of our work to envision a thriving region where we protect and restore the wildlife and wild lands that make this place so special.
The Blue Mountains Trail grew from the recognition that a human-powered route through the region would have multiple benefits. It serves to connect people more deeply to the landscapes we love, if offers communities new opportunities for economic prosperity through a connection with the thousands of visitors who come from near and far to visit this magnificent place, and it highlights the critical refuge these intact ecosystems: the forests, mountains, rivers, and canyons, are to the wildlife and native species that are found here.
What does GHCC do and what are your goals?
Traditionally, much of our effort was focused on limiting the environmental impacts of logging and grazing, two activities that have a long history and well established industry support across Northeast Oregon. We primarily focus on public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. We continue to advocate for broader protections including Wilderness designation and classing more of our waterways as Wild and Scenic Rivers and Streams. We are leading the effort to protect the few remaining large trees and old-growth forests of the region, more at risk now than anytime in the past 25 years. More information about this effort and our broader protections work is available on our website.
We also focus on intact landscapes, watersheds, and wildlife in our Wild Connections program. Through this program, we work closely with the Nez Perce Tribe and other partners to address climate impacts to first foods and a way of life that has relied on a strong connection with the lands and animals in our region since time immemorial. This includes advocating for a solution to improve salmon passage and cold water refuges in the Columbia and Snake River basins. Our largely undammed rivers in the region are critical salmon and steelhead habitat, but the four lower Snake River dams create a challenging barrier to fish passage exacerbated by the effects of a warming climate.
The Blue Mountains Trail, a 530-mile route through Northeast Oregon’s Blue Mountains Ecoregion, seeks to introduce this largely unknown region to a new audience. People protect what they know and love, and with just 3% of Oregon’s population residing in our region, too few people are aware of the vast forested and intact landscapes found here. Because of this, the Blue Mountains has served as a testing ground for extractive industries for over 100 years. It’s time that the Blue Mountains are on the map.
What are your initiatives that are most relevant to the outdoors community and Earth Day?
Earth Day and Greater Hells Canyon Council began at about the same time. It grew from the recognition that our sustaining environments, on both a local and global level, were imperiled by the overreach of human development. Outdoor recreators and enthusiasts led the charge. If it weren’t for the river rats that loved Hells Canyon, the Snake River would now be dammed.
While the 1960s and 1970s led to the formation of bedrock environmental laws and a growing awareness of the importance of environmental protections, like many other progressive efforts of the era, they have stalled. All the while, the threats and challenges of humanity's growth are growing greater than ever.
Solving the global challenges of climate change requires us to address environmental degradation on a tangible level. Healthy forests and large trees provide one of the easiest methods for reducing carbon emissions. Even forest fires of the scale we see today create a fraction of the carbon emissions compared to a logged forest. We are involved in restoration opportunities like promoting beaver habitat, monitoring native bumblebee populations and their access to flowering plants across the year, and working to maintain and increase protections for wolves that continue to struggle for a foothold in the region. Landscapes that support these species will be better adapted to changing climatic conditions.
Earth Day is an opportunity to highlight these efforts, and why they are so important in our region. We often say that the Greater Hells Canyon Region offers a rare opportunity to focus on climate adaptation and environmental protection. With such a low population density, our region is big enough to make an impact in the future. Working with CNOC Outdoors through the Earth Day Oregon program this year is such a great way to introduce the region, our work, and the Blue Mountains Trail, to a broader audience. We invite you to come and visit us. We promise you’ll fall in love.
What do you have planned for 2022 and beyond?
We are at a pivotal stage of our work where we recognize the importance strong coalitions and strategic partnerships will serve moving forward. We are leading or engaging in broad efforts to amplify our mission, including:
- Ensuring large trees and old-growth forests are no longer targeted for logging on over 9 million acres of federal lands in Eastern Oregon.
- Furthering our Camas to Condors work through the Blues to Bitterroots Partnership, including the Nez Perce Tribe, to address climate impacts, monitor first foods, and protect (and reintroduce) keystone species to a connected, intact Joseph Creek, part of the Grande Ronde watershed.
- Identifying solutions to save salmon and steelhead from extinction in the Snake River basin by engaging elected officials from the county, state, and federal level to remove the lower Snake River dams as part of a forward looking economic and environmental vision for the region.
- Championing the River Democracy Act, an effort to protect 4,700 miles of rivers and streams across Oregon through the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, including hundreds of miles of truly wild and scenic rivers and streams across Northeast Oregon.
- Broadening all facets of our work on the Blue Mountains Trail. From trail improvements and hiker resources to community engagement and working with the U.S. Forest Service, we are at the early stages of making the trail into the world-class route we envision.
All of these planned efforts are part of our larger work to highlight and act on a positive and inclusive vision for the future of Northeast Oregon that is rooted in rural values and invites more people into our work.
How can the outdoors community support your work?
Great question. First and foremost, get to know us and our region. Come and visit us. If you love to hike, there are plenty of ways to explore the Blue Mountains Trail, even if you only have one or two days to get out on a trail or come out camping. Visit the wonderful eateries and businesses in the region and let them know what brought you out. And follow us on Instagram or join our GHCC and Blue Mountains Trail newsletters for regular updates on our work and other educational content, news, and ways to support conservation in Northeast Oregon and the Blue Mountains Trail.
Next, share this with others. Even if you’ve never been to the Blue Mountains, the region is such an important wildlife connectivity corridor and climate refugia, we invite you to share this region and our work here with your network. There are so many opportunities to find solitude while engaging in your favorite outdoor activities, be them hiking, mountain biking, bikepacking, backcountry skiing, fishing, hunting or rafting. The Blue Mountains should be on every person’s bucket list.
If you live in or plan to visit Northeast Oregon, please come volunteer with us. From trail maintenance to bumblebee and beaver dam surveys, we always need more help. And it’s one of the best and most fun ways to really get to know why this region is so special.
And of equal importance, we invite you to donate to GHCC, especially this week. This also means loading up now on all of the CNOC gear you have been planning to purchase. I, along with a large cohort of the long distance hiking community, rely exclusively on the Vecto as my water vessel of choice when on the trail, be it for a hike or a hard day of trail stewardship. We are honored to work with and be supported by CNOC Outdoors and all of you who love the brand.
How will the funds from the Earth Day fundraising event be utilized?
Funds from Earth Day will be used in part to support development of the Blue Mountains Trail. We are currently raising the funds we need to support a full time trail coordinator and ramp up our trail maintenance efforts. A portion of the funds will also be used to support our forest protections and wild connections work.
Thank you Jared for taking the time to tell us about the great work that GHCC is doin and introducing the Blue Mountain Trail, especially now as the more famous trails in the USA are becoming crowded, a newly developed trail is exciting!
So head over to our store, buy that piece of kit you have been waiting to add to your collection and 10% of that purchase will go to support GHCC this week (April 15th to the 22nd).