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The Wild Idaho Rising Tide collective confronts the root causes of climate change by asserting direct actions and promoting locally organized solutions, in solidarity with frontline communities of resistance and an international, volunteer, grassroots network of activists.
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WIRT Newsletter: February & March WIRT & Allies’ Events

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 04:00

Please consider participating in the following events hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allies, as described and linked through the constantly updated Events Calendar page of the WIRT website.

Thursday, February 19, 7 pm: WIRT Third Thursday Moscow Monthly Meeting and Potluck at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street, Moscow, Idaho

Monday, February 23, 7 pm: Last Rush for the Wild West: Tar Sands, Oil Shale, and the American Frontier, a Utah/Alberta tar sands documentary screening with filmmaker Jennifer Ekstrom, co-hosted with the Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse, 420 East Second Street, Moscow, Idaho

Friday, February 27 to Sunday, March 1: Northwest regional gathering of Rising Tide groups: WIRT will provide further, available information about the event and carpools upon your request

Saturday, February 28, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm: Tribal Environmental Summit hosted by Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment at the University of Idaho College of Law, Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, March 4, 7 pm: WIRT First Wednesday Sandpoint Monthly Meeting and Pizza at Second Avenue Pizza, 215 South Second Avenue, Sandpoint, Idaho

Saturday, March 7, 10 am to 2 pm: Winter Market: WIRT information table with donation envelopes and the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition petition for Highway 95 safety measures, on the 1912 Center Plaza if weather permits, 412 East Third Street, Moscow, Idaho  (Please contact WIRT to volunteer.)

Saturday, March 7, 4 pm: Moscow Mardi Gras 2015 Parade: WIRT with the Moscow Volunteer Peace Band, “celebrating community, charity, and commitment to local children’s organizations [and kid’s climate]” line-up from 3 to 3:45 pm at the Eagles Lodge/First and Main Streets, parade on Main Street from A to Sixth Streets, Moscow, Idaho

Tuesday, March 10: Chris Hedges in Spokane: 4 to 6 pm Special Reception and Dinner at a location to be arranged, and 7 pm presentation Wages of Rebellion – The Moral Imperative of Revolt at the Bing Crosby Theater, 901 West Sprague Avenue, Spokane, Washington.  (Please contact WIRT for Palouse region carpool information.)

Saturday, March 28, 7 pm to midnight: Fourth Annual Celebration of Wild Idaho Rising Tide benefit concert with a potluck, beer and wine, and slide show in the 1912 Center Great Room, 412 East Second Street, Moscow, Idaho  (Please contact WIRT to volunteer.)


Filed under: Newsletters
Categories: Climate Change

Climate Justice Forum: Jennifer Ekstrom 2-16-15

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 05:00

The Monday, February 16, 2015 Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) gratefully welcomes fellow Tar Sands Healing Walker and regional conservationist Jennifer Ekstrom​, who directed, filmed, and produced the award-winning documentary Last Rush for the Wild West: Tar Sands, Oil Shale, and the American Frontier, screening in Moscow on Monday, February 23.  Jennifer will discuss her experiences creating the compelling movie, named one of the Ten Best Eco-Docs of 2014 by EcoWatch, and its context of extreme fossil fuel extraction, watershed and climate pollution, and resolute indigenous and citizen opposition in Utah, Alberta, and beyond.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PST, live at 90.3 FM and online, the show covers continent-wide climate activism and community resistance to dirty energy developments, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as her KRFP DJ.


Filed under: Climate Justice Forum
Categories: Climate Change

Utah/Alberta Tar Sands Documentary Screens in Moscow

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 03:00

 

New Documentary Exposes Destructive Tar Sands Mining Plans in Utah

Last Rush for the Wild West Screens in Moscow on February 23

An award-winning, documentary film that exposes plans to strip mine vast landscapes in the upper reaches of the Colorado River watershed in Utah will screen at 7 pm on Monday, February 23, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse, 420 East Second Street in Moscow, Idaho.  The Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition (PESC) and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) will provide snacks and beverages and accept donations for this co-hosted event that is free and open to the public.

Last Rush for the Wild West: Tar Sands, Oil Shale, and the American Frontier earned the Audience Appeal Award at the 2014 Moab International Film Festival, and EcoWatch named the movie one of the Ten Best Eco-Docs of 2014.  The film highlights industry efforts already underway to strip mine almost one million acres of tar sands and oil shale deposits across eastern Utah and Colorado and Wyoming.  Potential strip mines would overuse and pollute the delicate Colorado River watershed, on which 36 million people living in downstream, drought-stricken areas depend for drinking water, agriculture, and recreation.

The film’s director, Jennifer Ekstrom, will attend this Moscow premier to introduce the film and host a post-screening, question-and-answer session.  Before turning to filmmaking in 2012, Jennifer was born and raised in eastern Washington and has worked as communications director for the statewide Wild Washington Campaign, which met initial success with the designation of the Wild Sky Wilderness near Index, Washington.  Besides assisting several citizen initiative, electoral political, and education campaigns promoting sound environmental and social policies on clean air, smart growth, health care, and the minimum wage, Jennifer recently served as the waterkeeper and executive director for Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper in Sandpoint, Idaho.  Along with Pat Rathmann of PESC and Helen Yost of WIRT, she was among the first Idahoans to participate in the indigenous-led Tar Sands Healing Walk near Fort McMurray, Alberta, during August 2012.

“Making this film has opened my eyes to the magnitude of destruction on the horizon, if strip mining for tar sands and oil shale is allowed to gain momentum in America,” said Jennifer Ekstrom, producer and director of the film.  “The massive strip mines already approved by the state of Utah are setting the stage for what could be one of the most damaging and polluting industrial complexes in our nation.  Utah’s approval process did absolutely nothing to protect public health or the environment, but there is still time to stop these devastating projects before it’s too late.”

Last Rush for the Wild West presents a compelling look at an issue that is important to all Americans, but especially citizens on the frontlines of fossil fuel infrastructure expansion” said Helen Yost of WIRT  and Pat Rathmann of PESC.  “We are pleased to co-host this screening and help foster public awareness about this unprecedented threat to our cherished, publicly owned landscapes, water, air, and climate.”

This feature documentary highlights a resolute contingent of Utah citizens and local experts, as well as indigenous leaders from tar sands impacted communities in Alberta, Canada, as they encourage American taxpayers and voters to stand up with them to stop this impending disaster.  For further information, please view the film’s website and trailer at Last Rush for the Wild West.


Filed under: Alberta Tar Sands, Events
Categories: Climate Change

Stop the New Keystone XL: Northwest Tar Sands Trains!

Tue, 02/10/2015 - 12:30

Please help FBI-targeted Wild Idaho Rising Tide activists stage direct action training workshops and actions resisting the new Keystone XL: Alberta tar sands moving by train across the Northwest since late November 2014, from Idaho and Montana rail gateways!  Spread the word!

The Northwest tar sands-by-rail story: http://on.fb.me/16NrAaV

FBI contact of Northwest climate activists: http://on.fb.me/1KvJ6ja

Your chance to give: http://bit.ly/1C9KDVR


Filed under: Alerts, Coal/Oil Trains/Ports
Categories: Climate Change

Climate Justice Forum: Gary Dorr 2-9-15

Sun, 02/08/2015 - 10:00

The Monday, February 9, 2015 Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) gratefully welcomes again Nez Perce activist Gary Dorr, who has been assisting tribal and grassroots resistance of the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline in South Dakota and Nebraska.  Gary will share his involved, localized knowledge about the indigenous Spirit Camp in the KXL path, the U.S. House and Senate push for the pipeline, President Obama’s promise to veto Congressional KXL approval, the recent, damning EPA report on the pipeline, Nebraska court cases on laws facilitating the KXL, and his predictions of emerging issue developments over the next few months.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PDT, live at 90.3 FM and online, the show covers continent-wide climate activism and community opposition to dirty energy developments, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as her KRFP DJ.


Filed under: Climate Justice Forum
Categories: Climate Change

Climate Justice Forum: Sandpoint Oil Train Forum & Idaho Senate Oil & Gas Rules Hearing 2-2-15

Mon, 02/02/2015 - 18:00

The Monday, February 2, Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) will broadcast the second half hour of the Sandpoint, Idaho, community forum on coal and oil train issues, held in City Council Chambers on January 14, 2015.  The recording features presentations by two of eight citizen, city and county government, and railroad company panelists, including moderator Chris Bessler of Sandpoint Magazine, Jared Yost of the Sandpoint Mapping and GIS Department, and Bob Howard of Bonner County Emergency Services.  WIRT will also air the final Payette County, Idaho, resident testimony during the February 2, 2015 Idaho Senate Resources and Environment Committee hearing, before it passed revised state oil and gas rules.  Alma Hasse of Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction, Joli Eromenok, the closest home and business neighbor to a proposed liquefied natural gas processing and “bomb train” loading facility, and farm and business owner Jim Plucinski share their private property concerns.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PST, live at 90.3 FM and online, the show also covers continent-wide, grassroots, climate activism and community opposition to industrial, dirty energy invasions, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as her KRFP DJ.


Filed under: Climate Justice Forum
Categories: Climate Change

Our View: When the FBI Wants to Be Your Friend

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 00:05

Lee Rozen, for the Editorial Board

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Don’t say a word until your attorney gets there, said one member of the editorial board.

Oh, I’d invite them in because I’d be so curious about what they were interested in asking me, said another.

Just because I’d tell them they could ask, doesn’t mean I’d answer, said another.

Don’t say a word without your lawyer, the first repeated.

To be clear, the FBI has no interest in asking your editorial board any questions.

But they sure would like to talk to members of Wild Idaho Rising Tide and other Northwest environmental activists.

Moscow’s Helen Yost, a WIRT organizer, got a text message several weeks ago that unsettled her.

“I need to speak with you. Please give me a call. I am an FBI agent,” she says the text read.

WIRT is against megaload shipments of equipment to the tar sand oil fields of Alberta, the shipment of oil and coal by rail from inland to ports in Oregon and Washington. They get together and loudly protest, usually from the side of the street, highway or railroad. But Yost, 57, has been arrested a couple of times for blocking traffic.

Basically WIRT argues that – for the health of the planet – there are better energy sources.

Here’s another quotation, reported by the Spokesman-Review in Spokane:

“We don’t honestly don’t know what they’re up to, or why, and that concerns us.”

It might have come from the FBI.

But it didn’t. It came from Larry Hildes, a Bellingham, Wash., civil rights lawyer, who was talking about the FBI. The agency has apparently contacted about a dozen such activists around the Pacific Northwest.

The FBI’s Ayn Dietrich-Williams in Seattle told the Spokesman, “We don’t investigate anyone for First Amendment activities.”

Some folks might be willing to debate that with her.

“I think they were there to put me on notice that I was being watched,” says Herb Goodwin, 65, of Bellingham after a city officer and FBI agent came to his house. “I’m not a saboteur.”

But that’s the issue, isn’t it?

Derailing or decoupling an oil train with 100 crude oil tank cars could be a disaster for cities and rivers along its route. Accidents elsewhere have been devastating.

So, the FBI has to ask.

But, know your lawyer’s number.


Filed under: Letters & Op-Eds
Categories: Climate Change

U.S. 95: Three Alternatives

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 08:25

Steve Flint, Moscow

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News 1/29/15

I’ve heard some people comment they had a difficult time following the different options discussed in Kas Dumroese’s letter (January 14) on the planned U.S. Highway 95 realignment south of Moscow.  There are three different routes being considered.  All three routes are four lanes, meet current design standards for safety and ease of travel, but differ considerably in other features.

The Idaho Transportation Department, for unknown reasons, has favored E-2, the eastern route that stays high on Paradise Ridge.  I think of the “E” actually standing for “extreme weather,” as this route is up in the “snow zone,” just like Steakhouse Hill north of Moscow, where there are frequent winter accidents.  (See the Reader Photo of the Day on January 28, for an excellent example of the “snow zone.”)

There is a central route (C-3) that is often close to the existing highway but on a completely new roadbed.  It will be the most useful route for local residents.  The data from the draft environmental impact statement repeatedly show this as the most logical choice (see the summary in Dumroese’s letter).  I suggest we think of the “C” as standing for the “common sense” route.

Then there’s W-4, the poor, orphaned, western route that no one talks much about.  It’s a longer route, so has generated less interest.  How about “W” being “wayward, way-out-west” route?

Three choices but a straightforward decision – just remember the phrases.


Filed under: Highway 95 Re-Route, Letters & Op-Eds
Categories: Climate Change

WIRT Activists House Relocation Party

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 15:00

During the past two and a half years, the Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) Activists House, open daily between 12 noon and 8 pm, has provided our collective a combined working space, monthly meeting place, information resource center, and visiting/resident climate activist home [1].  Established as a regional base of operations in mid-July 2012, after a seven-week transition and intensive search and thanks to the gracious hospitality and generosity of many, amazing, fellow activists and allies, the hundred-year-old, two-bedroom, one-story house, beneath a huge cottonwood tree near downtown Moscow and the University of Idaho, filled with essential furniture and household goods donated during and after the WIRT Activist House-Warming Party [2, 3].  Our group has been fortunate to host meetings, potlucks, movies, fundraisers, memorials, and other convergences in the living room, kitchen, enclosed porch, and fenced yard, and to accommodate traveling activists, musicians, presenters, and guests in the spacious, rear bedroom with large windows and a walk-in closet and in the living room and porch of this small, humble abode.

Over the years and especially during the last four months, we have sought one or two responsible, mature house mates, preferably from among our wonderful network, to occupy the back bedroom and share the house, basement, garden, and on-street parking of this quiet, clean, pet-less house.  Mutual support of the rent and additional utility and internet costs, totaling approximately $700 per month, arose in only one of 30 months, from a couple of tenants during June 2014.  We have publicly posted this housing opportunity with various, regional, online lists and have offered further information, photos, and viewings to dozens of prospective renters, to no avail.  Already behind on rent just to stay warm in the middle of winter, if we cannot find house mates soon, we can no longer afford to keep this beloved dwelling among and for our community.

With meager contributions and exhausted savings, credit, and public assistance from carrying forward this grassroots organization over four years, a core WIRT organizer must choose between a home workplace and continuing activism.  Although we are compiling a video and letter about WIRT accomplishments for a crowdfunding campaign via Indiegogo or Kickstarter, and gratefully anticipate our annual celebration fundraiser on March 28 and a city-wide canvass in the spring, we rightfully should channel donations into WIRT programs, usually requiring region-wide travel, not into an unassociated landlord’s pocket.  The correct decision is clear: We intend to lower group overhead expenses and abandon the WIRT Activists House around February 1, eager and grateful to return to frugal life ways averting the burdens of possessions and borrowed property.  As a Spokane comrade reminded us, “When you have very little, very little can be taken, and the work is from the heart.”  If you or your associates can offer ideas, suggestions, or assistance with this situation and/or provide a place within walking distance to libraries and campuses to park and occupy a vehicle, please contact us.

To recognize and celebrate our community, strategize and energize for a year of successful actions, and redistribute our material goods, Wild Idaho Rising Tide invites you and your friends and family to the WIRT Activists House Relocation Party on Friday, January 30, starting at 7 pm and continuing into the evening.  Call 208-301-8039 for our Moscow, Idaho, location.  We welcome beverages, snacks, or entrees to share with comrades, for a lively night of radical camaraderie, music, and conversation.  Fiddlin’ Big Al and friends will be stirring up eclectic, traditional, and original folk tunes; musicians inclined to jam can join the acoustic fray; dancers can enjoy the roomy kitchen; and party-goers can relax and talk throughout the house, side porch, and yard.  WIRT would be delighted and infinitely thankful for the honor of your revolutionary presence amongst this revelry!

Besides this occasion for some powerful fun, WIRT is hoping that you can take, benefit from, and perhaps exchange a donation for household items that collective members have contributed for our common good.  We offer a full-sized futon bed and frame, convertible coach/bed, wooden-framed coach, rocking chair and ottoman, single futon chair, desk with shelves and rolling chair, book case, side tables, wheeled kitchen chairs, microwave, drapes and curtains, canning jars, and house plants.  Come and participate in this significant, transitional event that will ultimately mobilize ever greater numbers of dirty energy/climate change protesters around the region!

[1] WIRT Activists House: July 2012 to January 2015 (January 25, 2015 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[2] WIRT Activist House-Warming Party! (July 16, 2012 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[3] WIRT Activist House-Warming Party! (July 18, 2012 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)


Filed under: Events
Categories: Climate Change

Climate Justice Forum: Sandpoint Oil/Coal Train Forum 1-26-15

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 10:30

The Monday, January 26, Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) will air the first hour of the Sandpoint, Idaho, community forum on coal and oil train issues, held in City Council Chambers on January 14, 2015.  The recording features presentations by six of eight citizen, city and county government, and railroad company panelists, including moderator Chris Bessler of Sandpoint Magazine, Sandpoint Mayor Carrie Logan, citizen advocate Gary Payton, Jared Yost of the Sandpoint Mapping and GIS Department, Bob Howard of Bonner County Emergency Services, and Gus Melonas and Ross Lane of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PST, live at 90.3 FM and online, the show also covers continent-wide, grassroots, climate activism and community opposition to industrial, dirty energy invasions, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as her KRFP DJ.


Filed under: Climate Justice Forum
Categories: Climate Change

Climate Justice Forum: Jesse Cardinal 1-19-15

Mon, 01/19/2015 - 12:30

The Monday, January 19, 2015 Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) gratefully welcomes again Jesse Cardinal, a coordinator for Keepers of the Athabasca and co-organizer of the former, annual Tar Sands Healing Walk near Fort McMurray, Alberta.  Jesse will describe the ongoing land protection efforts of the Northern Trappers Alliance, who have been “holding the line” with road blockades north of LaLoche, Saskatchewan, since November 19, 2014…, to prevent access by numerous oil and gas companies to exploration camps that have multiplied across the region during the last seven years.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PDT, live at 90.3 FM and online, the show covers continent-wide climate activism and community opposition to dirty energy developments, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as her KRFP DJ.


Filed under: Climate Justice Forum
Categories: Climate Change

WIRT Report on Sandpoint Oil and Coal Train Traffic Public Forum

Fri, 01/16/2015 - 21:00

Various north Idaho city, county, and state government elected and agency officials and two environmental organization representatives banned the public from several closed meetings during recent months, while they discussed the environmental and public health and safety threats and opportunities for resolution of increased coal and oil train traffic across the Panhandle [1-3].  In the wake of critical news stories denouncing this fiasco from Sandpoint to Boise, Idaho, and from Spokane, Washington, to Washington D.C., excluded, rightfully appalled citizens expressed regrets that participating government entities and environmental groups denied them access to these essential conversations about such crisis topics, even while public awareness has grown in response to fiery oil train derailments across North America during the 18 months since the tragic Lac Megantic disaster that incinerated 47 lives in July 2013.

Perhaps in embarrassment, the City of Sandpoint, Idaho, sponsored and hosted a community forum on north Idaho coal and oil train issues at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, January 14, 2015, in Sandpoint City Council Chambers at Sandpoint City Hall, 1123 Lake Street [4].  Sandpoint Mayor Carrie Logan called for this public meeting in mid-December, to provide an opportunity for citizens to hear current information about expanding coal and oil rail traffic and to discuss the risks, challenges, and possible solutions of community safety and wellbeing currently compromised by air, water, and noise pollution, crossing delays, economic impacts, and potential train derailments.

The city invited the public and local, state, and federal representatives, along with spokespersons of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), Montana Rail Link (MRL), and Union Pacific (UP) railroads.  Event moderator Chris Bessler, owner and publisher of Sandpoint Magazine, offered an issue overview and introduced the eight citizen, city and county government, and railroad company panelists.  In order of appearance, Mayor Carrie Logan, citizen advocate Gary Payton, Jared Yost of the Sandpoint Mapping and GIS Department, Bob Howard of Bonner County Emergency Services, Gus Melonas and Ross Lane of BNSF, and Jim Lewis and Casey Calkin of MRL each gave approximately ten-minute presentations.  Anticipating a lively evening with good citizen turnout, the panel accepted written questions, comments, and concerns collected from the audience and asked by the moderator.  During the last 15 minutes of the forum, city and county residents approached the panel with their verbal queries and assertions.

Regional citizen participants packed the Sandpoint City Council Chambers to its 125-person room capacity during the oil and coal train forum [5, 6].  Another dozen folks listened from the hallway, while the city fire marshal and police also attended.  Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) filmed a video and photos and recorded the entire, almost three-hour meeting for the January 15, 2015 KRFP Evening Report news story Sandpoint Residents Learn About Oil Train Options [7-9].  Like the newscast, WIRT intends to air selected excerpts of the forum on WIRT’s upcoming Climate Justice Forum radio programs, broadcast on Monday evenings on KRFP.  The City of Sandpoint posted an audio file of the forum, along with a list of resources and contacts provided at the meeting, on its website [10, 11].

Based on direct observations, the January 14 Sandpoint oil and coal train forum seemed like a government and railroad attempt to regain authority over escalating public outrage about the inherent risks and ongoing pollution foisted by fossil fuel train shipments on rail line corridor residents.  In response to the citizen-accepted, standard government and corporate operating procedure of placating the audience by providing not entirely comprehensive or accurate information, WIRT yearns for greater community passion to actively oppose this oil, coal, and probable tar sands onslaught.  We experienced this desired resistance only in the number of citizen participants at the Wednesday evening meeting, suggesting the benefits of a second forum accommodating stronger, more direct public input, via verbal citizen comments and visual materials.

North Idaho activists who have been working to raise public interest in this issue for years are nonetheless grateful that Sandpoint area residents are awakening to the railroad dangers that confront them daily and nightly.  After all, the booming development and export of interior North American carbon resources crosses their paths at every turn.  Approximately six oil and coal unit trains, among 55 trains every 24 hours, each take six to ten minutes to pass through a half dozen at-grade, track/street crossings within Sandpoint city limits, together blocking other residential, business, and recreational interests six to nine hours every day.

But within the wider perspective of reckless fossil fuel development and resulting climate change, Sandpoint holds the dubious honor of a much more crucial distinction.  Recently involved in megaload protesting and monitoring activities in the Idaho Panhandle, a core WIRT activist attests that,

Sandpoint, Idaho, is the chokepoint for the dirty energy oligarchs’ plans.  Loaded oil and coal unit trains bound for the Cascadian coast, along with returning empties headed back to the Bakken and Powder River [extraction] sacrifice zones, all cross the Lake Pend Oreille [train] bridge on a single rail track.  We must all stand with the Sandpoint resistance!

[1] Wednesday Sandpoint Oil/Coal Train Forum & Other Events (January 12, 2015 Wild Idaho Rising Tide action alert)

[2] WIRT Newsletter: Recent Idaho & Montana Oil & Coal Train Issues (January 14, 2015 Wild Idaho Rising Tide newsletter)

[3] Oil and Coal Train Update from Wild Idaho Rising Tide (January 15, 2015 Earth First! Newswire)

[4] City of Sandpoint Media Release (December 16, 2014 City of Sandpoint)

[5] Oil, Coal Train Worries Pack Hearing (January 15, 2015 Bonner County Daily Bee)

[6] Officials Address Train Traffic Increase (January 15, 2015 Coeur d’Alene Press)

[7] Sandpoint Public Forum on Oil and Coal Train Traffic 1-14-15 (January 14, 2015 Wild Idaho Rising Tide video)

[8] Sandpoint Public Forum on Oil and Coal Train Traffic 1-14-15 (January 14, 2015 Wild Idaho Rising Tide photos)

[9] Sandpoint Residents Learn About Oil Train Options (January 15, 2015 KRFP Evening Report, between 11:10 and 4:27 LoFi)

[10] Forum on Coal and Oil Train Traffic (January 14, 2015 City of Sandpoint)

[11] Audio File of the Forum on Coal and Oil Train Traffic (January 14, 2015 City of Sandpoint)


Filed under: Coal/Oil Trains/Ports
Categories: Climate Change

No Reisenauer Hill Fix

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 00:05

David Hall, Moscow

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News 1/15/15

Oh, a fairy tale from Viola (Letter to the Editor, Van Thompson, December 28): Perhaps we should look at reality here.

Very few Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition members live on Paradise Ridge.  (When someone who does live there speaks up on the issue, people cry “NIMBY.”  When people who do not live there speak out, they are told to stay out of it and let those who are directly affected talk.)

The [proposed] eastern alignment [of U.S. Highway 95] is perhaps shorter by a few hundred feet.  And it is not safer than are other alignments.

Mr. Thompson ignores the fact that the highway, had it been built – illegally – ten years ago, would have left Reisenauer Hill as it is, and accidents would have continued to occur on the hill in that decade.  Were the eastern alignment that ITD prefers to be built now, again Reisenauer Hill would be left, dangerous as it is, likely never to be made safer.  The “family at the bottom of the hill” will continue to have unwanted vehicles in their front yard.


Filed under: Highway 95 Re-Route, Letters & Op-Eds
Categories: Climate Change

WIRT Newsletter: Recent Idaho & Montana Oil & Coal Train Issues

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 03:30

Bakken shale oil trains in northern Idaho travel beside the Kootenai River, through downtown Bonners Ferry and Sandpoint, over and along Lake Pend Oreille, and adjacent to U.S. Highway 95, before heading west into Washington.  Within the nexus of Panhandle tracks carrying greater numbers of dangerous trains every month across crumbling bridges and the lake, residents truly wish to protect their lands, waters, and the future of their children and grandchildren.  They understand the toxic and transient nature of unsustainable fossil fuels among the life of this Earth, and some have been boycotting them at every opportunity for decades.  One derailment on a bridge or over the regional aquifer would ruin the drinking water of thousands of people.  Are the profits of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), Montana Rail Link (MRL), and Union Pacific (UP) railroads so imperative that they would chance derailments and bridge collapses near rivers and lakes? [1]  As oil and gas companies scrape the bottom of the easily recoverable barrel to extract the largest possible revenues, they obviously are evading the burdensome infrastructure and operating costs associated with preliminary processing of tar sands and fracked crude.  Without these adequate precautions, Bakken crude oil contains extremely volatile constituents that ignite too readily to be safely transported in bulk.  But North Dakota regulators have only considered or required that crude be conditioned, instead of mandating the more thorough and expensive stabilization procedures and equipment that separate and remove volatile compounds prior to shipment, but that the oil industry has been resisting for years.

Through combinations of these factors, governments and oil and railroad corporations ensure that American citizens passively and endlessly bear (but not accept!) the physical and fiscal risks and costs of oil trains, while these industries and their pet politicians take all the profits.  Flammable oil and dusty coal are transported and stored on a regular basis within some of the largest population centers in U.S., mostly located around railroads.  A leak or spill of volatile Bakken oil constituents from a transfer pipe or railroad tank car could ignite and set the heavier compounds on fire and start an uncontrollable, days-long conflagration that no municipality has the experience or the gear to combat.  Are existing north Idaho politicians and environmental groups determined to safeguard local communities by insisting on prohibition of crude oil train shipments with highly volatile constituents?  The majority of conservation organizations advocate overdue removal from nationwide tracks of aging Department of Transportation (DOT)-111 tank cars – the “riskiest models on the rails for accidents and oil spills” – as demonstrated by a November 2014 trip to Washington, D.C. by Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper executive director Shannon Williamson and allied colleagues [2].  They also petitioned for other more rigorous oil train regulations during rulemaking sessions at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In early December 2014, the public interest environmental law organization Earthjustice, “on behalf of Sierra Club and ForestEthics, challenged the Department of Transportation’s denial in November of the groups’ petition for an immediate ban on the most hazardous DOT-111 rail tank cars carrying explosive Bakken crude oil” [3].  The legal action attests that this type of car, prone to punctures, spills, and fires during train accidents, represents two of every three tankers transporting oil throughout the U.S.  Asserting that it has sufficiently implemented measures to respond to the imminent hazards posed by these rail cars, by only issuing a safety advisory, the Department of Transportation faces growing legal opposition demanding further actions to protect communities susceptible to “bomb train” derailments, leaks, and explosions.

Lives will remain vulnerable until outspoken opponents of oil, coal, and tar sands together raise escalating, cooperating resistance to their transport, in any form or manner, past their homes and businesses.  The inherent dangers of Northwest fossil fuel passage persist, as apparent in the big rock slide that closed a main BNSF rail line in north Idaho, connecting Montana to Washington, and naturally shut down oil and coal trains for a couple days in late November 2014 [4].  Perhaps nature was sending a warning about not just these shipments but about an influx of Canada Pacific freight and tank cars (hauling tar sands oil?) recently seen by Sandpoint residents on local railroad stretches [5].  June 2014 protesters of four of five Montana megaload assembly plants also noticed some of these cars on the Montana High Line east of Glacier National Park, likely utilizing one of only a few international rail entrances into Idaho and Montana.

Upcoming Oil & Coal Train Challenges

The Sandpoint, Idaho area already suffers from both transient and stationary trains fully loaded with hazardous cargo like coal, oil, and tar sands.  Union Pacific has proposed closing the street at Eastgate Crossing, between Idaho Highway 200 and the Bonner Mall, “a highly utilized access point between the commercial and residential areas of Ponderay [6, 7].  While this maneuver may increase public safety, it would prolong response times of ambulance and fire emergency services by several critical minutes.  Concerned citizens and local businesses impacted by diminished highway access and storefront visibility distrust further division of the two sides of Ponderay and reduced public safety from Union Pacific’s subsequent “ability to stack trains…lingering in town while carrying possibly harmful or flammable cargo” [6].

With neighboring Washington almost a year into considering the problems of oil transports via rail and ship, rural “north Idaho governments will use a $36,000 federal grant to update their emergency preparedness plans, to address the growing number of oil trains rumbling through their communities” [8].  The Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai tribes, Bonner, Boundary, and Kootenai counties, and BNSF, MRL, and UP are all involved in efforts to safeguard critical community resources along the route of two to three 120-car oil trains daily passing city water intake facilities, public buildings, fish hatcheries, and other assets.  As the volume of predominantly BNSF oil-by-rail transports through critical watersheds and ecosystems, westbound for Washington coast refineries and ports, could triple over the next five years, grant partners are identifying the risks of hazardous materials derailments or spills and outlining effective action plans.  Railroad officials say they are training north Idaho emergency responders through spill response exercises, updating emergency response plans, and soon placing “trailers with containment booms, absorbent pads, and skimmers in both Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry” [8].  But locals question the federal grant’s requirements for public input and railroad company disclosure and cooperation.

Like Missoula and Whitefish, Montana city officials, Bonner County Commissioners and other elected city and county leaders are taking courageous stands, requesting the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) to include local communities in its draft environmental impact statement (EIS) review of the Tongue River Railroad proposal [9].  The new, 83-mile rail line between the Otter Creek Mine and Ashland and Miles City in southeastern Montana could generate up to 14 trains per day through the Idaho Panhandle, hauling some of the mine’s estimated 1.3 billion tons of coal and 2.5 billion tons of resulting atmospheric carbon dioxide, when burned.  As part of the U.S. DOT that regulates aspects of rail expansion, the STB would consider coal train effects on the environment, health, safety, and well-being of area residents.  “The county commission is also calling for public hearings to be held in Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry, East Hope, and other communities” [9].  The STB’s Office of Environmental Analysis expects to issue, and accept comments on, the draft Tongue River Railroad EIS this spring.  Regional Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) climate activists anticipate strong, informed community participation in both comments and hearings, supporting the bold initiative of north Idaho officials.

During summer 2014, workers killed and cleared hundreds of beautiful trees and everything around the railway along Idaho Highway 200 in Ponderay, to either widen the road or add another train track.  In late August, the public learned that Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad plans to construct a second railroad bridge across scenic Lake Pend Oreille, near Sandpoint in beautiful, mountainous northern Idaho [10-12].  In addition to 2008 new steel pier and decking improvements of the current train trestle over the lake, the proposed, parallel, single-track, 4800-foot (3/4-mile) structure of concrete spans and steel pilings would alleviate the existing, “frequent choke point for BNSF and MRL” during heavy train traffic periods, compounded by the single-track bridge and 35-mile-per-hour speed limits in the area where BNSF and MRL main lines converge [10].  Speculatively completed by 2018, this expanding fossil fuel infrastructure would increase industry capacity to accommodate more oil tankers and coal cars through BNSF’s and MRL’s northern corridor that hosts “more than 50 trains already passing through Sandpoint every 24 hours” [11].

However, BNSF must obtain permits to build the bridge.  That process could prove difficult, considering the opposition some Sandpoint residents, and others in the region, have aimed against BNSF’s growing oil and coal business.  Disturbance of the lakebed and shoreline will likely attract oversight as well [10].

Like residents of La Crosse, Wisconsin, diligent Panhandle citizens should get involved in the public process for this project, and convince representatives of local, state, and all levels of government to demand a full environmental impact statement, as specified by federal laws and rules and initiated at the onset [13].  The federal Surface Transportation Board Office of Environmental Analysis could take the lead on necessary environmental studies, perhaps paid for by BNSF’s owner Warren Buffet.

Montana Train Pollution & Mishaps

Like in the humid, lakeside Sandpoint, Idaho area, where pungent, (railroad-released?) odors other than wood smoke often linger at night under cover of smoke and darkness, increasing numbers of coal and oil trains pollute the inversion-prone Missoula air shed.  Visitors to this Montana city are often astounded by the poor air quality, sometimes comparable to Los Angeles smog.  A climate activist filmed diesel clouds emanating on November 30, 2014, from idling train engines in the Missoula rail yard, across the street from a residential neighborhood [14].  If the U.S. holds a 200-year reserve of fossil fuels under climate-challenged skies, of which people each breathe 35 pounds per day, why are dirty energy corporations selling coal and oil to other countries?

Meanwhile, Montana Rail Link lines have endured two train collisions and derailments in as many months.  On November 13, two trains traveling in opposite directions clipped each other while clearing a Clark Fork River bridge near the mouth of the Blackfoot River, below the decommissioned, former Milltown Dam east of Missoula [15].  The crash derailed three engines and ten empty grain cars, hospitalized both engineers in one locomotive, and knocked out power for several frigid hours to about 1200 homes and businesses.  The grain car shells remained along the tracks among incident investigations and salvage work, when another collision derailed thirty empty, stationary tank cars, without spills or injuries in the Missoula rail yard, at about 4 am on December 16, 2014.  “A rail car loaded with company scrap metal made low-speed contact,…resulting in all 30 cars rolling on their sides, as designed” [16].  The loaded car did not derail, caused minimal equipment damage, and did not interrupt main line service.

Oregon & Washington Civil Disobedience

Since a few weeks before Spokane Rising Tide’s and WIRT’s mid-July 2014, Sandpoint “bomb train” protest and regional actions, until the hundreds-strong turnouts at Spokane and Olympia hearings on the Washington Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study in late October, always amazing Rising Tide and allied comrades of the Pacific Northwest staged at least five oil train track blockades in Anacortes, Everett, Portland (twice), and Seattle.  The Seattle Raging Grannies blocked the Lacey headquarter driveways of the state agency conducting the study, the Washington Department of Ecology.  In early December 2014, David Osborn of Portland Rising Tide and Rising Tide North America described the “transformative power of direct action” during these encounters to forever change the participants, observers, and

actions from protesting only within the limits of what is legal, to doing what is right; from doing what we are allowed to do, to what we have a responsibility to do; from appealing to others to make changes for us, to discovering our own agency to create those changes.  Such shifts constitute new ways of being… [17]

Citizen authority invigorated by direct action has also been increasingly hitting its mark, as Scott Parkin of Rising Tide North America concurred at about the same time.

All of this bold and effective organizing in the climate movements has created a crisis in the boardrooms of North America’s oil, gas, and coal companies…The capitalist economic model is hardwired to exist only at the cost of the climate, the people, and our wild places.  Industry’s bottom line is derived from draining the Earth of its natural resources and converting them into energy for profit.  Activists from British Columbia to Utah to Vermont and Maryland, fighting back and saying “Not One More Step” of fossil fuel expansion, embody a wrench in the gears of that economic model [18].

In solidarity with frontline communities of resistance and an international, volunteer, grassroots network of activists, Rising Tide collectives must not only confront the root causes of climate change (primarily fossil fuel perpetrators) by asserting direct actions, we must also, always promote locally organized solutions to the climate crisis.  Creating understanding is the first step of climate activism organizing.  So, in collaboration with Rising Tide and allied groups throughout the Canadian and American Northwest region, Rising Tide North America is printing 15,000 publications about fossil fuel terminals and opposition along the northern Pacific coast [19].

George Price, of Indian People’s Action in Montana, reminds all radicals that changing the world entails nurturing alternatives to the present culture of colonialist conquest:

We are not likely to end ecocide “working through the normal channels.”  We have to become people who cannot be bought or compromised – people who have [created] alternative economies [and societies] connected with Earth and all species…Then, when we raise our voices and bring our actions of opposition and resistance, we can also declare that the corporatocracy and its economy has nothing that we want and nothing that we need…Real revolution is hard work and includes some self-sacrifice.  But imagine the solidarity we could have with a movement made up of people who…all know that we actually have something better than what the ecocidal/suicidal consumer society has to offer! [20]

Yours for a better world…

[1] BNSF Hiring in Spokane, North Idaho (December 10, 2014 Spokesman-Review)

[2] Environmental, Train Issues Reach D.C. (November 15, 2014 Bonner County Daily Bee)

[3] Groups Bring New Legal Action for Federal Ban of Dangerous Oil Tank Rail Cars (December 2, 2014 ForestEthics)

[4] Idaho Rockslide Halts Passenger, Freight Trains (November 28, 2014 KHQ)

[5] Canada Pacific Railway Cars (November 16, 2014 Constance Albrecht facebook post)

[6] Crossing Plan Frustrates City, Business Owners (November 13, 2014 Bonner County Daily Bee)

[7] UP Seeks Eastgate Crossing’s Closure (October 8, 2014 Bonner County Daily Bee)

[8] North Idaho Oil Train Risks to be Assessed under Grant (December 18, 2014 Spokesman-Review)

[9] County Seeks Vote in Tongue River Proposal (January 1, 2015 Bonner County Daily Bee)

[10] BNSF Plans Second Bridge over Idaho Chokepoint (August 27, 2014 Railway Age)

[11] BNSF Mulls Second Railroad Bridge (August 28, 2014 Bonner County Daily Bee)

[12] BNSF Seeks Second Bridge at Sandpoint (September 17, 2014 Spokesman-Review)

[13] La Crosse Residents Demand Environmental Impact Statement for Train Track Expansion (January 8, 2015 National Public Radio)

[14] Diesel Cloud in the Missoula Rail Yard (December 3, 2014 Blue Skies Campaign video)

[15] Wreckage Cleared from Tracks East of Missoula; Trains Too Close as Neared Trestle (November 14, 2014 Missoulian)

[16] Montana Rail Link: Trains Collide, Tank Cars Derail in Missoula (December 16, 2014 Missoulian)

[17] Oil Train Blockades in the Pacific Northwest and the Transformative Power of Direct Action (December 1, 2014 Earth Island Journal)

[18] Why We Need a “No Compromise” Climate Movement (December 2, 2014 Counterpunch)

[19] Rising Tide Regional Climate Publication (Rising Tide North America KickStarter)

[20] We Are Not Likely to End Ecocide… (December 7, 2014 George Price facebook post)


Filed under: Newsletters
Categories: Climate Change

The Numbers on C-3

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 00:15

Kas Dumroese, Moscow

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News 1/14/15

Just because everyone wants an improved U.S. Highway 95 Thorncreek to Moscow doesn’t justify ignoring law, especially by the government.  We still drive on old U.S. 95 because the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) ignored law concerning selection of E-2, which required an extensive, expensive, and time-consuming Environmental Impact Statement.  Instead, we could be celebrating a decade of driving on an equally well-designed, safe C-3 that uses more of the existing U.S. 95 footprint than E-2 would on the flank of Paradise Ridge.

E-2 is touted by its proponents as having less impact on farming, and is cheaper, shorter, and safer than C-3.  What does ITD’s Draft EIS say?  Compared to C-3, E-2 converts 55 percent more total land, 100 percent more prime farm land, and 36 percent more farmland of state importance (Table 42, pages 147-148).  It also removes 34 percent more land from the Latah County tax base, through new right-of-way acquisitions.  E-2 would cost $4 million more to construct than C-3 (page 11).  For the nearly six miles of new alignment with either alternative, C-3 would be a whopping 475 feet longer than E-2 (Table 52, page 174).  Using ITD’s data (Safety Technical Report Appendix D and page 174) and doing some simple calculations, the chance of safely traversing the “least safe” C-3 route is 99.99951 percent per trip, and it skyrockets to 99.99966 percent if you travel on the “safest” route, E-2.  And your chance of an accident at any access/entry point along E-2 (0.0022 percent) is actually double that for C-3 (0.0011 percent).

If you think those differences in length and safety seem tiny, you might be surprised to hear that ITD agrees with you (page 204): “the travel times and safety between Action Alternatives [C-3 and E-2] do not differ substantially.”


Filed under: Highway 95 Re-Route, Letters & Op-Eds
Categories: Climate Change

Wednesday Sandpoint Oil/Coal Train Forum & Other Events

Mon, 01/12/2015 - 17:30

Climate concerned comrades,

This Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) event alert and upcoming newsletter cover mostly Idaho- and Montana-centric developments in the oil and coal train and terminal issues since late October 2014, in hopes of eventually sharing more news about hundreds-strong turnouts at Spokane and Olympia hearings on the Washington Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study in October, along with stories about several blockades of train tracks and a state agency by our great Rising Tide and allied comrades in the Pacific Northwest, since WIRT’s mid-July Sandpoint “bomb train” protest and regional actions with Spokane Rising Tide.

Postponed Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance Trainings

After scrutinizing bus schedules, car rentals, and travel logistics over the weekend, WIRT activists have discussed and decided to postpone announcing and staging the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance training workshops in five regional cities until February 2015.  Thanks for your patience with this situation.  We just do not have the $250 to $300 travel funds nor the survival-drained, physical energy to make this rigorous tour happen.  Allowing a week for response, we have not received a reply from the larger, national organizers of the trainings, who garnered almost 100,000 pledges and presumably would supply some of the training materials and share much needed inland Northwest contacts.  While we would appreciate attracting with these workshops some of the middle ground of the climate movement from Big Green bandwagons toward more assertive, local direct actions, we must remain focused on more pressing regional fossil fuels resistance during January, which only a few grassroots groups are supporting.

Although we will miss commemorating the informal fourth anniversary of WIRT (January 17) with a similar Moscow training in our former meeting space, The Attic, we will likely reschedule Sandpoint/Spokane, Boise/Moscow, and Missoula trainings on three successive February weekends, depending on venue availability.  By then, various colleges and universities will have rejoined the academic year, and activists may already be in these areas for protests or hearings, as we together raise the hundreds of dollars required in advance for trainer transportation.  Attendees may especially benefit from the legal expertise of much appreciated attorneys leading “know your rights” portions of these workshops.  Thanks to all of the participants in the Third Annual Stand Up! Fight Back! Against Fossil Fuels in the Northwest! meetings, who have graciously provided input and worked on arrangements for these trainings [1].

Sandpoint Oil/Coal Train Public Forum

The City of Sandpoint, Idaho, is finally sponsoring a community forum on north Idaho coal and oil train issues at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, January 14, 2015, in Sandpoint Hall City Council Chambers at 1123 Lake Street [2].  Sandpoint Mayor Carrie Logan called for this public meeting in mid-December, to provide an opportunity to hear current information about expanding coal and oil rail traffic and to discuss the risks, challenges, and possible solutions of citizen and community safety and wellbeing currently compromised by air, water, and noise pollution, crossing delays, economic impacts, and potential train derailments.  The city has invited the public and local, state, and federal representatives, along with spokespersons of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), Montana Rail Link (MRL), and Union Pacific (UP) railroads.  As tentatively scheduled, Chris Bessler, owner and publisher of Sandpoint Magazine, will offer an issue overview and introductions and moderate presentations by Casey Calkin and Jim Lewis of MRL, Bob Howard of Bonner County Emergency Services, Ross Lane and Gus Melonas of BNSF, Mayor Carrie Logan, citizen advocate Gary Payton, and Jared Yost of the Sandpoint Mapping and GIS Department.  Anticipating a lively evening with good citizen turnout, the government/railroad panel will accept written questions, comments, and concerns collected from the audience and asked by the moderator.  Contact the Mayor’s office at 263‐3310 or cityclerk@ci.sandpoint.id.us, for further information about this event.

Closed Oil/Coal Train Meetings

As public awareness and interest has grown around this issue, in the wake of fiery oil train derailments across North America during the last 18 months and since nationwide, July 2014  actions marking the Lac Megantic tragedy anniversary, various public and nonprofit agencies have either facilitated or denied essential discussions about these crisis topics in Idaho.  Citizens have gathered openly and drawn federal scrutiny, while public officials have met secretly, apparently with the blessing of state government.  On December 8, 9, and 10, 2014, WIRT and interested activists held the Third Annual Stand Up! Fight Back! Against Fossil Fuels in the Northwest! planning meetings in Sandpoint, Spokane, and Moscow, to discuss desired coal and oil train forums and actions and Keystone XL pipeline protest training and frontline resistance [1].  Before these three sessions concluded, the Federal Bureau of Investigation contacted Wild Idaho Rising Tide organizer Helen Yost by phone and later text, seeking conversations [3, 4].

On the next day, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden educated 75 Sandpoint area officials and citizens during his northern Idaho tour to explain state open meeting and public records laws and purportedly encourage public involvement (but probably not share suggestions on resolving typical agency abuses of these laws) [5, 6].  On that same Thursday, December 11, three area mayors, a county commissioner, state senator, and representatives of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper, and Idaho Conservation League banned the public from a closed meeting about increased coal and oil train traffic.  Local reportage included a quote from a citizen who said that the Sandpoint mayor told him that the meeting was closed to the public, while no city officials attended Wasden’s workshop.  Critical news stories with denouncements of the fiasco spread from the local Sandpoint newspaper to Coeur d’Alene and Boise, Idaho, Spokane, Washington, and Washington D.C. [7-11].

Banished, rightfully outraged citizens cried “plutocracy” and “tyranny” and wondered why elected officials and relevant government employees wrongly included some members of the public and organizations but excluded others from discussions of environmental and public safety issues.  Appalled Sandpoint residents blamed other participating government entities and environmental groups just as much as city officials for not announcing this meeting.  Some observers suggested that the occurrence seemed to correlate with rumors that the Attorney General have been bribed by Big Oil to relax enforcement of environmental regulations.  Citizens speculated whether the “informational meeting trying to clarify and identify risks” may have considered trains every half-hour over the single-track Lake Pend Oreille bridge, chances of fatal or water-contaminating train mishaps, or recent initiatives to limit constant train horn sounds with a railroad quiet zone, to establish better safeguards and barriers at rail crossings, or to build parallel tracks through town and a second lake railroad bridge that would alleviate Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Montana Rail Link bottlenecks [12-15].  Residents approached the City of Sandpoint for  public records about this closed meeting, while WIRT called for a belated, open, “public education event like a panel discussion” co-hosted with allies, as discussed at the WIRT planning meeting in Sandpoint on December 8 [16].

Idaho Conservation League admitted that this gathering was “one of several meetings we’ve had in recent months with various local leaders to discuss threats and opportunities related to this important public health and safety issue” [17].  Its Sandpoint-based representative, who participated in the closed meeting, revealed topics of discussion ranging from the sharp increase in unit oil trains crossing north Idaho (from a dozen per week in June 2014 to 18 to 21 in December 2014) to the shortage of inspections of train tracks and hazardous material rail cars [18].  Meeting attendees also watched a ten-minute video entitled Boom, summarizing a special report about the fracked Bakken shale oil boom in North Dakota and eastern Montana and the transport of resulting, unusually volatile oil in outdated U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)-111 tanker cars of “bomb trains” that can derail and explode [19].  They explored the potential benefits of a similar, abbreviated Idaho version of the Washington Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study and of inclusion of north Idaho concerns in the environmental impact statement for the proposed Tongue River Railroad spur line from Montana coal mines.

Anarchistic WIRT activists demonstrate that citizens will legally organize without their governments, if elected and appointed officials cannot uphold public trust and participation and the common good.  But we are somewhat relieved that we no longer have to arrange, for now, a Sandpoint area public forum, concerned that “government officials may decline to participate, averting public perceptions of association with radicals,” although Spokane would still benefit from a similar event with more balanced stakeholder representation [1].  Resentful of previous closed meetings and suspicious of constrained written interaction at the upcoming forum, we wonder whether government and non-governmental officials deserve public participation amongst such exclusionary, elitist behavior.  Sandpoint is brewing a storm of words this week, after which a downpour of actions surely follows.

[1] Third Annual Stand Up! Fight Back! Against Fossil Fuels in the Northwest! (December 5, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[2] City of Sandpoint Media Release (December 16, 2014 City of Sandpoint)

[3] FBI WIRT Inquiries (December 28, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[4] Spokane FBI Article/Protest Photo Shoot at 10 am Thursday 1/8/15 (January 7, 2015 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)

[5] Four IDOG Seminars Set for December (November 25, 2014 Idahoans for Openness in Government)

[6] Standing-Room Only for Open Government Workshop in Sandpoint (December 12, 2014 Spokesman-Review)

[7] Sandpoint Bars Public from Rail Issues Meeting (December 12, 2014 Bonner County Daily Bee)

[8] City Defends Decision to Bar Public (December 13, 2014 Coeur d’Alene Press)

[9] North Idaho Officials Close Doors to Public on Same Day that Wasden is in Town for Open Meeting Workshops (December 12, 2014 Boise Weekly)

[10] Sandpoint Officials Discuss Coal and Oil Trains Behind Closed Doors (December 12, 2014 Spokesman-Review)

[11] Public Banned from Coal Train Meeting in North Idaho (December 13, 2014 Washington Times)

[12] Sandpoint Eyes Railroad Quiet Zone (November 14, 2014 Associated Press)

[13] Quiet Zone Plan Could Cost City (November 20, 2014 Bonner County Daily Bee)

[14] November 19 Sandpoint, Idaho, City Council Meeting (November 20, 2014 Constance Albrecht facebook post)

[15] BNSF Seeks Second Bridge at Sandpoint (September 17, 2014 Spokesman-Review)

[16] Meeting Prompts Drive to Investigate Issues (December 25, 2014 Bonner County Daily Bee)

[17] Public Officials Get Up to Speed on Rail Transport Issues (December 16, 2014 Idaho Conservation League)

[18] FYI Idaho Rail Inspectors Info (December 19, 2014 Terry Hill facebook post)

[19] Video – Boom: North America’s Explosive Oil-by-Rail Problem (December 8, 2014 InsideClimate News and The Weather Channel)


Filed under: Alerts, Coal/Oil Trains/Ports
Categories: Climate Change

Spokane FBI Article/Protest Photo Shoot at 10 am Thursday 1/8/15

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 22:00

WIRT activists and allied comrades,

The co-author of the Portland Rising Tide/Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) chapter Resistance to Alberta Tar Sands Transports in Idaho and Beyond in his anthology about land-based struggles, Grabbing Back, the remarkable writer and friend Alexander Reid Ross consistently shares with the world collective stories of often obscure but always earnest Northwest confrontations with climate change perpetrators and their local, state, and federal facilitators, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  A colleague referred him to Defending Dissent Foundation, which published his latest, extensive essay on their Newswire site, revealing ongoing covert and recently overt FBI harassment, local arrest, and attempted repression of anti-fossil fuel activists in the Northwest [1].  During the last three days, his article has appeared in six esteemed, online journals, including Climate Connections hosted by the Global Justice Ecology Project, who noted that his excellent story about the FBI contact of core WIRT activists Herb Goodwin in Bellingham, Helen Yost in Moscow, and Deep Green Resistance members in Washington and the Payette County public meeting arrest of Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction (IRAGE)’s Alma Hasse in early October “works through individual stories that show the effects of harassment on people’s lives, and also provides the larger context of the movement as it continues to evolve” [2-6].

Rising Tide North America (RTNA) and Tar Sands Blockade have widely circulated these pieces, via facebook meme posts and Tweets, about the FBI finally contacting WIRT activists after surveilling us for three and one-half years (maybe because we have been usually quiet over the last three months, making their snoop fixes difficult).  Our RTNA comrades assert that:

Billy Bragg once said, “If you’ve got a blacklist, I want to be on it.”  Well, we’re definitely on somebody’s list.  In 2014, the federal harassment of Rising Tide activists in the Northwest continued, this time in Idaho and Bellingham, Washington.  The feds harassed activists fighting fossil fuel infrastructure in the Northwest with “knock and talks” and surveillance.  But, of course, the @$$holes who crashed the economy on Wall Street in 2008, and their monstrous clients in the fossil fuel industry who poison and pollute communities on a daily basis with oil, gas, and coal, carry on with business-as-usual.  It’s not a flaw in the system that allows this to happen: it was designed that way.

WIRT offers our sincere praise to all the folks who interviewed and wrote this article like Alex, Alma Hasse, and Herb Goodwin, but especially everyone who has participated in this awe-inspiring movement striving for a better, fossil fuels-free world, like Cascadia Forestdefenders, IRAGE, Spokane Rising Tide, Portland Rising Tide, Rising Tide Seattle, Rising Tide Vancouver-Coast Salish Territories, Rising Tide Bellingham, other Rising Tide groups, Seattle Raging Grannies, and all of our outrageous, indigenous, and climate comrades around the continent.

During just the solar 2013-14 year, WIRT staged dozens of fossil fuel/climate change protests against Alberta tar sands/Bakken shale oil megaloads at Arco, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Hammett, Lewiston, Marsing, Moscow, Mountain Home, Sandpoint, and Timmerman Junction, Idaho, and Bonner, Bynum, Choteau, Clearwater Junction, Great Falls, and Missoula, Montana, and at the Port of Wilma, Washington, all compounded by extensive megaload monitoring nearby.  We demonstrated at least three times in Boise, Idaho, against oil and gas leasing and fracking, and another handful of times against oil and coal export trains and ports, in the streets of Sandpoint, Idaho, and Spokane, Washington.  WIRT also held and/or participated in 20-plus meetings, direct action workshops, films, presentations, discussions, and concerts exploring all four issues in four states, in Boise, Coeur d’Alene, Hailey, McCall, Moscow, Plummer, Pocatello, and Sandpoint, Idaho, in Missoula, Montana, and Ontario, Oregon, and in Bellingham, Pullman, Seattle, and Spokane, Washington.

News of much of this activity does not typically make the local newspapers, radio, and television, as much the fault of meager group capacity and reticent community participation as media neglect.  But as friends as distant as England and farther remind us, “This is American history in the making, and you will win, change history, and be remembered by future generations.”  However most difficult the first steps of any movement, WIRT could never express enough our respect and gratitude for the undaunted activists who have fearlessly, faithfully kept fighting the good fight.  We also extend thanks to each of our supporters for your encouragement, compliments, and sharing the news of grassroots resistance.

Among these developments, as the song echoes, “battle lines are being drawn.”  Despite temporary attention and potential victories outlined here, none of us can stop our own resistance, so easily labeled hypocritical or unusual by opponents.  As another friend responded to this article, “What good are human rights, civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, if our Mother Earth is destroyed?  We must speak for her.”  As we anticipate even greater actions and outreach in 2015, Wild Idaho Rising Tide is calling you together to the streets again.  In the wake of a Friday, January 2, interview with a Spokesman-Review reporter, who has already called and talked with Bellingham attorney Larry Hildes, she is hoping to speak with Deep Green Resistance activists in the Northwest approached by the FBI asking questions in October 2014.  A photographer is traveling from the Spokane area on Thursday, January 8, and meeting WIRT activists at One World Café in Moscow, Idaho, at 10 am, to craft some pictures to accompany a regionally reaching article about this FBI fiasco: PLEASE JOIN US!

Remember that government (and likely worse corporate) scrutiny emphasizes the relentless effectiveness of WIRT’s work, reliant completely on your generosity that sustains the amazing, admirable efforts of climate justice activists.  Please support our 2015 grassroots resistance to oil, gas, coal, and tar sands invasions of wild Idaho, with your physical and fiscal contributions at the Support WIRT page or buttons on our website (http://wildidahorisingtide.org/support-wirt/).  We realistically can only achieve this impassioned work with your input!

In solidarity, stay strong, friends!

[1] Why Is the FBI Harassing Activists in Cascadia? (January 5, 2015 Dissent News Wire)

[2] Why Is the FBI Harassing Anti-Fossil Fuel Activists in Cascadia? (January 6, 2015 Earth First! Newswire)

[3] Why Is the FBI Harassing Activists in Cascadia? (January 6, 2015 Counterpunch)

[4] FBI Harassing Fossil Fuel Activists in the Pacific Northwest (January 6, 2015 Ecologist)

[5] Why Is the FBI Harassing Tar Sands Protesters in Washington and Oregon? (January 6, 2015 Green is the New Red)

[6] FBI Harassing Activists in Pacific Northwest (January 6, 2015 Climate Connections)


Filed under: Alerts
Categories: Climate Change

Climate Justice Forum: Chris Wahmhoff 1-5-15

Mon, 01/05/2015 - 09:00

The Monday, January 5, Climate Justice Forum radio program hosted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) gratefully welcomes Chris Wahmhoff, the InterOccupy and Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MICATS) organizer who skated deep into an Enbridge tar sands pipeline in June 2012, to protest and stall expansion of the same line that leaked the largest, non-marine, oil spill in U.S. history, one million gallons into the still unremediated Kalamazoo River and tributaries.  Chris will discuss subsequent lawsuits, his November 2014 election campaign, spill health impacts and deaths, and upcoming summer actions.  Broadcast on progressive, volunteer, community station KRFP Radio Free Moscow every Monday between 7:30 and 9:30 pm PST, live at 90.3 FM and online, the show also covers continent-wide, grassroots, climate activism and community opposition to industrial, dirty energy invasions, thanks to the generous, anonymous listener who adopted program host Helen Yost as her KRFP DJ.


Filed under: Climate Justice Forum
Categories: Climate Change

FBI WIRT Inquiries

Sun, 12/28/2014 - 20:45

December 10 & 19, 2014

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agent Travis Thiede placed missed phone calls from Coeur d’Alene cell phone number 208-661-0316 to Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT)/Helen Yost three times on December 10, 2014, at 8:10 am, 11:21 am, and 1:07 pm [1-3].  Mr. Thiede called WIRT during the Third Annual Stand Up! Fight Back! Against Fossil Fuels in the Northwest! meetings, likely drawn, with his agency, to these gatherings in Sandpoint, Idaho, on December 8, in Spokane, Washington, on December 9, and in Moscow, Idaho, on December 10 [4].  Helen did not notice these three missed calls until about 3 pm on December 23, 2014.

A little before 10 am on Friday morning, December 19, 2014, WIRT/Helen received another missed, incoming phone call from the same Coeur d’Alene cell phone.  After this fourth call at 9:47 am, Mr. Thiede messaged the WIRT phone, and Helen replied via the following text messages:

TT (12/19, 9:51 am): “Helen, I am trying to get a hold of you to speak with you.  An issue has come up, and I need to speak with you.  Please give me a call.  I am an FBI agent.  SA Travis Thiede.  208-661-0316”

HY (12/19, 9:59 am): “NO!”

TT (12/19, 10:03 am): “OK, I understand, just wanted to have a conversation with you.  Thanks.”

HY (12/20 next day, 9:17 am): “I do not wish to speak with you or any of your associates about anything.”

The December 23, 2014 Morning Mix and Evening Report radio news programs of KRFP Radio Free Moscow ran an interview about the situation with core WIRT activist Helen, by station manager Leigh Robartes [5].  The news story discussed FBI conversation requests and offered updates on the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) petition and demonstration advocating safety measures for U.S. Highway 95 before re-routing south of Moscow, Idaho.  During the December 23 midnight interview, Helen read directly from the text messages on the cell phone, still unaware of previously attempted FBI contact.  The interview implied that the special agent had called concerning December 17 WIRT comments on the PRDC highway safety petition submitted to various agencies and/or about December 19 WIRT remarks about our motivations for this campaign [6, 7].  A PRDC/WIRT co-activist noticed at least two unmarked cars observing the December 19 PRDC safety demonstration, which occurred only 3 1/2 hours after the FBI text messages [8].

October 9, 2014

Despite WIRT awareness of likely surveillance since September 2011, these encounters represent the second/third recent instances of direct contact.  Late in the morning of October 9, 2014, the FBI came to the door of a distant, core WIRT activist in Bellingham, Washington, wanting to ask questions about the activities of another group, Deep Green Resistance (DGR) [9].  Our great comrade correctly declined giving answers, which resulted in the agents leaving.  That evening (at about the same time as Payette, Idaho police arrested Alma Hasse of Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction at a county meeting), he graciously provided this description of his FBI interactions:

FBI activity in Bellingham today 10/09/14 targets activist(s)

Intimidation by visitation – Campaign against DGR expands beyond membership

I was approached at my door in Bellingham, Washington, at 10:45 am by two suits from state security.  The lead flashed a badge and claimed to be from the FBI.  She said “We are here to ask if you will answer a few questions about DGR.”

“I will not,” I replied.  Then I asked for their cards.

The male passed me a card from the Criminal Intelligence Unit of the Bellingham Police Department.  It identified him as Detective Al Jensen.  The female said that she did not have a card, so I asked for her name, so I could write it on Jensen’s card.  “Brenda,” she said.  I asked “Is that all of it?” and she replied “Yes.”

Jensen jocularly mentioned that we knew each other from the Occupy movement/camp and train blockade, attempting to coax up conversation.  I did not take the bait.  They gathered themselves and left.

The Law Offices of Lawrence A. Hildes at 360-715-9788 want to hear from anyone questioned or visited during this visitation sweep.  This includes those DGR members who have been or become targeted.

It is expected that this state security team was on a round of visitations/questionings in Bellingham today.  If you know of someone they contacted, please get this notice to those people.

No one should hide an encounter like this with state security.  No one should fear backlash as a consequence of effective activism.  Activist attorneys wish to hear from you if you have been questioned or visited by state security seeking dirt on other activists.

I subscribe to the DGR News Service, where this article appeared on 10/07/14 [10, 11].

According to a Seattle, Washington DGR activist, the FBI visited a fourth Deep Green Resistance member in a week, on the same morning as they approached the DGR/WIRT supporter who lives in Bellingham: October 9 [12].  He also refused to speak with the agents and walked away.  Because intimidation and information trolling obviously drove this visit, the activist advised others to stay aware and safe and to never talk to cops, who will lie and do anything to extract information.  Upon joining, DGR members pledge to observe prescribed principles of security culture [13].

When WIRT notified facebook friends of the October 9 Bellingham confrontation, an activist acquaintance reported that:

A few weeks ago, I had a small drone hovering over in front of my house.  I’m not close to the road and have trees 150 feet tall.  It was low enough to hit with a sling shot.  If it reoccurs, maybe I’ll have physical evidence.  I have no idea who controlled it.  I am pretty sure it wasn’t neighbors, and when it headed off, it didn’t go along the road.  So I assume it wasn’t a google one.  At that altitude, they’re in my face.  I wouldn’t hesitate to sling shot a rock in its direction.  My air space at that level and our state do have rights to privacy laws that exceed the Fourth Amendment [9].

Several comrades have remarked that WIRT “must be doing something right,” or that “you know you are being effective when [FBI contacts] like this happen.”  Others have blessed or thanked us for “strength in the face of FBI harassment” and for our “perfect response.”  An Earth First! Newswire writer provided a third explanation for FBI calls and text messages to WIRT, potentially scrutinizing increasing opposition to natural gas extraction infrastructure in Idaho.  State security and FBI inquiries in the Northwest during October through December 2014 expand prior, similar harassment and experiences of fellow climate change resisters:

Last year, the FBI visited numerous Rising Tide activists in Portland and Seattle.  This is the latest in their extended campaign to silence dissent.  The White House has declared that the export of fracked natural gas through the Pacific Northwest is a top national security concern, like gas imports to Europe through Ukraine.  Rising Tide opposes all fossil fuel shipments through the Pacific Northwest, and WIRT is actively involved in campaigns against fracking and infrastructure in Idaho [14].

Protective Actions & Information

Within hours of the October 9 and December 19 FBI intrusions, WIRT released and requested sharing of public notices via facebook, entitled Idaho FBI Harassment Warning! and describing and referencing the Bellingham and Moscow circumstances and discussions, all embedded with door-slamming images declaring Build a Wall of Resistance: Don’t Talk to the F.B.I.  We reminded WIRT friends that:

You have the right to NEVER talk to the police (who can lie), NEVER consent to a search of your person or home, and ALWAYS insist on having a lawyer present.  RECORD all police interactions via audio or video devices, and WARN friends and family to resist this corporate/government intimidation [3, 9].

To keep you and your loved ones safe, WIRT is also providing further, helpful, online resources, informing activists about protective responses to similar approaches: the website of the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) in Eugene, the CLDC Agent at the Door one-page fact sheet/flyer (for posting near your front door?), the Earth First! Newswire article with CLDC advice about the October 2014 FBI visits, and preeminent civil liberties lawyer Lauren Regan’s invaluable CLDC Know Your Rights Activist Training video [15-18].  We also offer again for everyone’s knowledge the extensive Center for Constitutional Rights manual If an Agent Knocks [19].

Immediately after the December 19 incident, we alerted three attorneys with whom WIRT has worked in the past: a CLDC board member and two lawyers who have either legally defended or assisted Helen with other cases.  Upon discovery of the three December 10 FBI phone calls missed by WIRT, we also called Bellingham, Washington-based attorney Larry Hildes (360-715-9788), who had requested contact if this situation arose.  Karen Weill and Larry Hildes have served as great assets to Northwest climate change and economic resistance, representing dozens of civil disobedience practitioners at the recently resolved trials of Occupy Bellingham activists and the Bellingham 12 and Montana 23 coal train and Montana Capitol blockaders.  Larry is calling Mr. Thiede to tell FBI agents to stop contacting Helen and WIRT activists.  He asks that, if we or anyone else gets harassed by them again, please let him (and everyone!) know.

Further Discussion & Advice

The FBI and other state and federal investigative agencies are searching for weak links in the regional activist community, but they will not find any.  Because WIRT and allies continue to publicly disclose our beliefs and non-violent methods, we have nothing to hide.  Stealth agents can take their McCarthyism-like intimidation tactics elsewhere.  We would recommend that they knock on Warren Buffet’s door or speak with the Big Oil and railroad terrorists who ship exploding, mile-and-a-half-long, oil tankers and leave evidence of wrongdoing in their wake throughout the Northwest.

Please uphold the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, stand steadfastly for fabled American freedoms, avert risks to fellow resisters, and take similar precautions if agents show up at the houses or phones of you and your contacts.  We appreciate the well-intended and -expressed, potential statement of a Montana comrade in response to such officers, acknowledging that these humans have consciences and the ability to understand protesters’ and protectors’ perspectives:

I know that you are only serving your corporate masters, or just trying to stay alive and support your families, but I have no legal obligation to help you serve those who are destroying the planet and us all.  That is all I have to say to you [3].

But WIRT and most direct action trainers suggest the fewest possible words and absolutely no “chit-chat” if approached by police or the FBI, because investigative, manipulative cops can twist activists’ words to fit their agenda, and they often play by their own rules that override the legal ones.  Giving police too much information about oneself or someone else can subsequently and permanently undermine significant relationships.  Your silence and words are a matter of trust that reaches farther than you can imagine in such intense circumstances.

Although core WIRT activists have recently grown weary of facebook, smart phones, and the internet, via which purportedly patriotic police spy on concerned citizens (FBI = FaceBook Informants), a core WIRT activist recently reminded observers of the limited, safe capacities of WIRT’s primary communication tool, facebook:

Facebook (FB) has its uses, but it is for sharing and connecting, not for secrets: different tools for different jobs.  It can also be useful for misdirection/misinformation, but that door swings both ways.  And as far as building intimate cadres for civil disobedience actions, you especially don’t do that on FB, even though you may meet people there.  You don’t do it on cell phones, either, unless you constantly buy new throwaways and change numbers.  Even email is suspect.  You approach people privately, one on one, and the fewer people each one knows, the better, until it is time to do whatever.  There is lots to be learned from people allied with us in World War II, who developed underground networks [2].

Thanks, everyone, for your advice, compliments, and moral support.  This situation will not deter WIRT activism!

[1] Travis Thiede (LinkedIn)

[2] FBI/WIRT Contacts Update (December 23, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook post)

[3] Idaho FBI Harassment Warning! (December 19, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook post)

[4] Third Annual Stand Up! Fight Back! Against Fossil Fuels in the Northwest! (December 5, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide website post)

[5] Moscow Activist Receives Text from FBI Special Agent (December 23, 2014 KRFP)

(Between 11:57 and 3:07 LoFi of the Tuesday Evening Report FBI Text)

[6] First WIRT Warning, ITD! (December 17, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook post)

[7] Why WIRT Cares About This (December 19, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook post)

[8] Highway 95 Safety Petition and Demonstration (December 16, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide website post)

[9] Idaho FBI Harassment Warning! (October 9, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook post)

[10] FBI Activity in Bellingham Today 10/09/14 Targets Activist(s) (October 9, 2014 Herb Goodwin facebook post)

[11] A Note on Recent FBI Contact with Deep Green Resistance Members (October 7, 2014 Deep Green Resistance Steering Committee)

[12] Another Member of Deep Green Resistance Was Visited by the FBI Today (October 9, 2014 Max Wilbert facebook post)

[13] Security Culture (Deep Green Resistance)

[14] FBI Continues Campaign of Harassment Against Rising Tide in Cascadia (December 19, 2014 Earth First! Newswire)

[15] Civil Liberties Defense Center (Civil Liberties Defense Center website)

[16] Agent at the Door (Civil Liberties Defense Center fact sheet)

[17] A Word about FBI Harassment from the CLDC (October 17, 2014 Earth First! Newswire)

[18] CLDC Know Your Rights Activist Training (April 16, 2014 Civil Liberties Defense Center/Lauren Regan video)

[19] If an Agent Knocks (Center for Constitutional Rights manual)


Filed under: Alerts
Categories: Climate Change

Report on Highway 95 Safety Petition & Demonstration

Thu, 12/25/2014 - 19:00

PRDC Safety Petition

Thanks to everyone who signed, circulated, and wrote compelling comments for the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) petition advocating safety measures and sensible re-routing for dangerous U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow, Idaho! [1]  In just three weeks, almost 500 Idaho and American taxpayers contributed their signatures and thoughts to this community effort.  Tim Hatten, a PRDC board member, wrote a much appreciated letter to the editor of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, inviting petition signatures before the 11 pm Wednesday, December 17 deadline [2].  PRDC organizers and board members Diane Baumgart, Stephan Flint, Joann Muneta, Mary Ullrich, and Helen Yost worked hours of outreach to collectively gather 230 hard-won, hand-written signatures, almost matching the 257 online signatures.  On Thursday, December 18, Diane and Mary sent 487 copies of the paper and online petition signatures via overnight mail to the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) in Lewiston and to ITD Director Brian Ness and the Federal Highway Administration, both in Boise.  Unfortunately, the half dozen reporters who covered the December 19 PRDC safety demonstration underquoted signature tallies or only mentioned 270 online signatures, as supporters continue to sign the PRDC safety petition.

During the culminating week of this safety campaign, KRFP Radio Free Moscow station manager Leigh Robartes thoroughly covered the background of PRDC’s petition and upcoming Friday demonstration targeting ITD inaction and PRDC proposed resolutions of Highway 95 traffic safety problems [3-5].  The December 16, 17, and 18 KRFP Evening Reports offered excellent, full news stories and an interview with PRDC board member Steve Ullrich, exploring regionally shared concerns about Highway 95 safety and re-routing impacts on native Palouse Prairie remnant habitat and wildlife.

In 2003 and again in 2013, PRDC wrote to ITD, requesting that the state agency implement additional, site-specific, safety measures to mitigate U.S. Highway 95 conditions in the Reisenauer Hill area south of Moscow, Idaho.  PRDC suggested flashing caution signs and enforceable, reduced speed limits to improve safety on the notoriously dangerous stretch of U.S. 95 prone to numerous traffic accidents and fatalities.  Because these previous requests have not produced ITD results, PRDC prepared the current petition urging ITD to immediately take these and other appropriate, interim actions and to consider public safety and highway realignment options that ITD has neglected for decades.  Such efforts could save traveler lives and property, especially during inclement and winter weather, and could preserve the unique, rare, native Palouse Prairie ecosystem that Highway 95 re-routing may soon threaten.

PRDC Safety Demonstration

Regional media and residents and PRDC members made and brought signs and/or gathered on the Highway 95 sidewalk around the Palouse River bridge, south of Palouse River Drive in Moscow, between 1:30 and 4:00 pm on Friday, December 19 [6-8].  The resulting public, roadside demonstration in rotating shifts highlighted shared citizen concerns and supported PRDC-proposed measures to improve public safety on U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow.

On Friday, people on both sides of the [U.S. 95 re-routing] argument came together to fight for one cause, safety…Latah County residents along Highway 95 on Friday afternoon held up signs warning drivers to slow down and beware of the dangerous twists and turns along Reisenauer Hill [9].

Drivers rolling in either direction along U.S. Highway 95 on the south end of Moscow on Friday afternoon could see more than a dozen demonstrators on each side of the road near its intersection with Palouse River Drive…Brightly colored signs were aimed at students and staff leaving the University of Idaho campus for the winter break…All of the messages highlighted the need for cautious driving through the section of the two-lane highway…A couple of supporters of the [eastern re-routing] plan also were out demonstrating with signs emphasizing safety…[and] would like to see ITD install interim safety features as soon as possible [10].

A group of more than a dozen members and supporters of the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition waved picket signs on Friday along U.S. Highway 95 in southern Moscow, demanding safety improvements on a seven-mile stretch of the roadway that has yet to be improved [11].

Besides extensive coverage by the three largest media outlets just quoted, KRFP recorded conversations with PRDC board members Stephan Flint, Mary Ullrich, Helen Yost, and Tim Hatten on-site at the Highway 95 Safety Demonstration, and broadcast their perspectives on myriad safety and environmental impacts imposed by current and proposed U.S. Highway 95 configurations [12].  Tom Hansen of Moscow Cares graciously composed a music-backed video compilation of the demonstration [13].  His video and a picture from the still expanding PRDC facebook album reached all the way to Boise via a Saturday morning, online article by the Boise Weekly that stated PRDC petition demands less explicitly echoed by other media coverage [14]:

“Taxpayers are requesting that ITD lower and seek enforcement of the speed limit around Reisenauer Hill, erect reduced speed limit warning signs with weather-activated, flashing lights at both approaches to the hill, and install rumble strips in the center and fog lines, and in the traffic lanes before the warning signs, on this section of Highway 95,” PRDC wrote in a statement [15].

PRDC and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) are especially grateful for the couple dozen participants who contributed to the great spirit, turnout, and media coverage of the December 19 demonstration.  Occupants of passing vehicles (even chip trucks!) and community members on foot in the area waved or honked their horns in support, and some stopped to share their concerns and common-sense experiences of slowing to below the speed limit when traveling the scary, risky route (like much of U.S. 95 in Idaho).  After all except a handful of the demonstrators departed, a brief rainbow during sunset completed the action, with one wider, more colorful leg touching down on the hilltop of Highway 95/Main Street to the north, and one more slender, faint but bright whitish leg appearing over the Plantation Tavern and Myrtle Street to the east, where many of the participants had parked for the event.

Highway 95 Re-Routing

Plenty of controversy has accompanied proposals to widen and straighten Highway 95 from Moscow to Thorn Creek Road, where a previous reconstruction project expanded the highway to four lanes with a median all the way to the Lewiston Hill.  Most regional residents agree that the six-plus-mile stretch of highway needs improvements to enhance traveler safety, but the best methods to accomplish this shared goal have encountered contentious debate.  The lengthy process to reach a final decision on highway renovation has prolonged and exacerbated safety concerns for the current route.  As the scene of numerous traffic accidents and fatalities, the Reisenauer Hill area of Highway 95 continues to pose serious threats to travelers during inclement weather and winter conditions.

Although the recent PRDC petition and demonstration focused on Highway 95 safety, conflicts over realignment arose again on the Friday roadside and in news coverage.

Most of the demonstrators were members of the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition, a group that has been fighting for years against the Idaho Transportation Department’s preferred [E-2 eastern] realignment route…[that] would cross Paradise Ridge [10].

In 2016, the Idaho Transportation Department plans to continue re-routing and widening Highway 95 just south of Moscow.  But for over a decade, environmentalists have fought that construction, while the people who live along the highway support it [9].

A news release from the coalition stated that the Idaho Transportation Department has shirked its duty by not taking safety measures on the highway over the decade it has taken to complete an environmental impact statement…The same group sued the transportation department in 2003, citing environmental and safety concerns over the [ITD] preferred route of the highway along the western flank of Paradise Ridge.  A federal judge granted an injunction and ordered the department to complete a full environmental impact statement, while design and construction on the rest of the highway continued from Thorn Creek Road to the top of the Lewiston Hill.  That work finished in 2007…[Some people] have villainized the group for blocking a new, four-lane, divided highway in the first place [11].

To set the record straight, Mary Ullrich of PRDC has issued a letter to the Lewiston Tribune editor, clarifying some aspects of the Tribune article about the event and issue.  It notes that neither the extended delay in building the new highway between Thorn Creek Road and Moscow nor ongoing accidents on current U.S. 95 should be blamed on the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition and its 2003 lawsuit requesting full environmental analysis of the realignment project.  The 2003 federal court ruling in PRDC’s favor forced ITD to adhere to its own regulations (which it tried to skip) by conducting an environmental impact statement (EIS) study, required of any highway construction involving new right-of-way.  Most EISs take three to four, not ten-plus, years to complete.  Moreover, ITD lacked funds to proceed with its chosen eastern re-routing, as clearly stated several times during the public, informational “Breakfast Meetings” held by ITD in Moscow during 2005 to 2007.

Nonetheless, the Saturday media accounts of this safety campaign did amplify the public’s and PRDC’s sense of urgency in alleviating unsafe conditions on the Thorn Creek Road to Moscow segment of Highway 95, through the PRDC petition and anticipated, subsequent ITD actions:

The group has created a petition demanding safety modifications that would make the stretch of highway safer [10].

The area around Reisenauer Hill is the most dangerous in the north central Idaho highway district, according to state statistics…The transportation department…received a petition from the coalition…It was signed by more than [487] people as of Friday [11].

Based on the number of accidents and fatalities, Reisenauer Hill is one of the most dangerous parts of highway in the state, especially during bad weather…ITD plans on re-routing…so that highway traffic avoids Reisenauer Hill.  But the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition said that won’t fix the problem…’Local traffic, emergency services,…people who live just outside of town, they’ll have to use this highway.’…So PRDC is urging ITD for the third time in a decade to implement safety measures along the risky stretch of highway…And they want it done now, because until ITD finishes the highly debated re-routing of the highway, every driver and passenger’s life is at risk.  PRDC also sent a petition that ITD received on Friday.  [487] people signed in support of immediately putting up these safety measures along current Highway 95 [9].

E-2 construction and use will not mitigate traffic dangers on and around Reisenauer Hill during two or more impending years of highway work or when this U.S. 95 stretch converts to a substandard, state-abandoned Latah County road.  Thus, this eastern alignment would provide significantly less safety than the central alternative C-3 that PRDC strongly recommends.  With predictably less ice, snow, ice fog, cross winds, elevation differentials, and animal crossings than E-2, this lower, divided, four-lane traverse would permanently increase Highway 95 safety and would minimize detrimental impacts to wildlife, critically endangered Palouse Prairie, and business and residence displacements.  The Highway 95 upgrade from two to four lanes with a median would provide additional safety.  Thankfully, broadcast KRFP interviews and Moscow-Pullman Daily News coverage presented a bounty of information about possible eastern re-routing effects [12]:

Along with other problems the E-2 route would create, it would likely increase the frequency of collisions between vehicles and animals, such as deer and elk…[and cause] heavy losses of wetlands, prime farmland, and conservation reserves, and removal of acres of pine stands and related habitat.  It also would cause more noise and have a wider visual impact, and not be the safest for travel…The route would be unsafe because it is at a higher elevation than other routes, and would abandon portions of U.S. 95, which would become county road [10].

ITD maintains that all of the proposed routes are “safe,” although the draft EIS issued two years ago did not adequately consider weather conditions, large animal impacts, or accidents along abandoned Highway 95 including Reisenauer Hill.  WIRT activists harbor further reservations about the state transportation agency’s preferred E-2 alternative [16].  Not only would it more heartlessly sacrifice traveler safety and endanger native Palouse Prairie remnants and reliant plant and animal life, eastern re-routing would facilitate an industrial corridor to Alberta tar sands and Bakken shale oil exploitation in the North American interior.  Moscow megaload blockades may have represented only practice sessions for defense of the last Palouse Prairie.

No matter when the Idaho Transportation Department releases the final Thorn Creek Road to Moscow EIS, PRDC and WIRT will remain vigilant.  The Tribune reporter who talked with Lewiston ITD District 2 senior planner and project manager Ken Helm on December 19 postponed earlier EIS release estimations by PRDC and the Daily News:

A federal environmental impact statement is on track to be published in the Federal Register early next year [2015].  A start date for construction…is dependent on the availability of funding [10].

The eastern route that passes closest to the top of the ridge remains as the department’s preferred alternative.  But…the route will ultimately be chosen by the Federal Highway Administration, when the environmental impact statement is completed by mid-2015…[for] the 2016 and 2017 construction seasons…The coalition is still opposed to the eastern route, and didn’t rule out further legal action to block it [11].

In the final EIS, PRDC hopes that ITD and the Federal Highway Administration will not again choose the previously preferred E-2 alternative for Highway 95 realignment and expansion on the slopes of Paradise Ridge, the most environmentally destructive and invasive route.  Over the last decade, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Fish and Wildlife Service have objected to E-2 implementation.

[1] Petition to the Idaho Transportation Department Requesting Immediate, Site-Specific Actions to Mitigate Dangerous Conditions on Reisenauer Hill (November 28, 2014 Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition)

[2] Letter: Sign the Petition (December 16, 2014 Tim Hatten letter to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News)

[3] Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition Collecting Petition Signatures for Reduced Speed Limit on U.S. 95’s Reisenauer Hill (December 16, 2014 KRFP)

(Between 14:05 and 10:05 LoFi of the Tuesday Evening Report U.S. 95 Safety Petition)

[4] Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition on U.S. 95 Safety South of Moscow (December 17, 2014 KRFP)

(Introduced from 19:15 to 18:53 LoFi and covered between 16:16 and 6:44 LoFi of the Wednesday Evening Report Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition)

[5] Paradise Ridge Environmental Issues Related to Proposed Eastern U.S. 95 Alignment (December 18, 2014 KRFP)

(Between 15:15 and 6:15 LoFi of the Thursday Evening Report Inslee Budget)

[6] Highway 95 Safety Petition and Demonstration (December 16, 2014 Helen Yost, Tim Hatten, & Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook event)

[7] Highway 95 Demonstration (December 16, 2014 Tim Hatten facebook event)

[8] Highway 95 Safety Petition and Demonstration (December 16, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide website post)

[9] Demonstrators Want Safety on Highway 95 (December 20, 2014 KLEW)

[10] Group Demonstrates along Highway 95 (December 20, 2014 Moscow-Pullman Daily News)

[11] Protesters Call for More Safety along U.S. 95 (December 20, 2014 Lewiston Tribune)

[12] Voices from the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition U.S. 95 Safety Demo (December 19, 2014 KRFP)

(Between 31:28 and 1:30 LoFi on the Friday Evening Report U.S. 95 Demo)

[13] U.S. 95 Safety Petition and Demonstration – December 19, 2014 (December 19, 2014 Tom Hansen video)

[14] Highway 95 Safety Petition and Demonstration 12-19-14 (December 19, 2014 Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition photo album)

[15] Video: Protest Points to ‘Unsafe’ Stretch of Idaho Highway (December 20, 2014 Boise Weekly)

[16] Why WIRT Cares About This (December 19, 2014 Wild Idaho Rising Tide)


Filed under: Highway 95 Re-Route
Categories: Climate Change

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