In the late 1990s, the federal government threatened water rights to the Little Walla Walla River because steelhead and bull trout were listed as a threatened species. I was a pastor in Milton-Freewater at the time. Those of us who understand the complexities of rural agriculture can imagine the chaos this threatened. Local irrigators, and our church, began to build a coalition which included the Tribes, various government agencies, diverse environmental groups and more. We found a solution and a way around the crisis. Cooperation was the key.

The Associated Press reported Friday that 11 Oregon lawmakers fled the state to avoid the cooperation and conversation that we elected them to engage in are now claiming victory in the defeat of HB2020.

HB2020 would have had Oregon declare a state of emergency around climate concerns that desperately need attention. Its goal was to “dramatically reduce greenhouse gases by 2050” through a cap and trade regime yet to be wholly defined. While we in rural and urban Oregon experience the crisis differently, we all know it exists.

Those of you in our state legislature have been given a trust by the people of Oregon. It’s a hard job. I respect that. It is likewise the job of faith communities like mine to support your work and speak up when you have failed. I am doing my job. Leaving the state to avoid doing yours is a catastrophic failure. My prayers for renewed integrity in office will continue.

Bishop Dave Brauer-Rieke


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