The Northwest is already seeing the effects of climate change, according to a new national climate assessment. The 1,600-page report outlines dire consequences across the country as global temperatures continue to rise. In the Northwest, the changes threaten much of what our region holds dear — from ski seasons to salmon runs.
Who put the assessment together? It was assembled by 13 federal agencies. It’s a report that’s put together for Congress every four years. This edition contains the most comprehensive evaluation to date on climate impacts to economy, health, agriculture and the environment.
The 2018 assessment includes a whole chapter on the Pacific Northwest, providing a vivid picture of what’s in store. The findings aren’t just about future predictions but impacts we’re already seeing in the region. What are some of the key findings for the Pacific Northwest? They add up to bad news for Oregon, Washington and Idaho: More extreme weather creating more landslides, flooding, drought and wildfires. The report notes that the region’s way of life is connected to the environment and natural resources and that the impacts are profound. The Northwest’s economy depends in large part on natural resources in sectors like forestry, fisheries, agriculture and outdoor recreation. Climate change threatens all of them.
Winter recreation, for example, would be hit hard; the report predicts a lack of snow from climate change could cut all snow-based recreation revenue by 70 percent. And with spring starting earlier, crops could start blooming before insects come around to pollinate them. Then there are the things we might not think about as related to climate change, like our health. Warmer temperatures bring more mosquitoes, and as a result we’re going to see more mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus. That means more people getting infected and even dying from that virus. The report says we’re already seeing some of these effects in the Northwest. What kinds of climate change impacts are we seeing? The report zeroes in on a recent year when we saw a lot of them: 2015, a year of severe drought for the Northwest. The report presents that year as a preview of our future with climate change. Temperatures were several degrees above normal with record low snowpack, rampant wildfires and smoky skies, and huge agricultural losses.
Toxins from harmful algal blooms closed fisheries along the coast in 2015 and we saw salmon die-offs because of the warm water temperatures in rivers and streams. Does the report include recommendations for how we should prepare?
Yes. And one of the big themes for those recommendations is reducing risk from extreme weather. It says we should prepare our infrastructure for more stress in the future from stronger storms, hotter heat waves and bigger wildfires. It will be important to develop back-up plans for when things go wrong because of global warming. So, if a landslide or drought takes out a key source of groundwater, we need a second source to turn to.
Farmers can start planting crops that are better suited to hotter summers and wetter winters and springs. The Northwest can develop water markets so that people who have water could sell it to people who need it. And we can start growing more of our own seafood using aquaculture instead of catching wild species in the ocean to help offset the threat of extinction for fish and other species that will struggle to survive with warmer water and ocean acidification.
The report acknowledges that much remains unknown about how the risk of climate change can be offset. But anything that reduces carbon emissions that trap heat — contributing to the greenhouse effect — will reduce the severity of that risk over time.
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Pinot noir is one of the finickiest grapes, but with proper nurturing it produces an amazing wine. Officials in Oregon and at a U.S. government agency are similarly finicky, and are stomping on a California winery’s claims that it makes an Oregon pinot.
Copper Cane, a Napa Valley, California, winery sells more pinot noir made from Oregon grapes than anyone else, and often at a lower price. That has some Oregon winemakers, who call the California version a less elevated product, seeing red.
Now, both the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and Oregon’s liquor agency have ruled that Copper Cane’s labels have been improperly referencing Oregon wine regions. The case recalls France’s mostly successful efforts to have only sparkling wine produced in its Champagne region called by that name.
At stake is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and Oregon’s reputation for producing a delicate pinot noir in its cool, rainy climate, according to state Rep. David Gomberg and winemaker Jim Bernau, who have been sharply critical of Copper Cane.
“Part of this is prestige and marketing,” Gomberg said.
Grapes for Copper Cane’s pinot noirs are grown in three Oregon wine regions and trucked in dry ice to California. Jim Blumling, Copper Cane’s vice president of operations, acknowledged that the winery’s top-selling Elouan Pinot Noir is more pronounced than the typical Oregon version because the grapes are picked later, with higher sugar content.
“It helps deliver a more concentrated juice in the fruit,” Blumling said.
Bernau, founder of Willamette Valley Vineyards of Turner, Oregon, said Copper Cane’s labels deceptively indicate its wines came from Oregon’s officially designated wine regions, or AVAs.
“Copper Cane takes something valuable that isn’t theirs and deeply discounts it,” Bernau said. “They can’t use Oregon AVAs if the wine is not made in the AVA.”
In their rulings this month, the federal and state regulatory bodies agreed there was a problem because Copper Cane’s labels refer to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Rogue Valley and Umpqua Valley wine regions. If a wine label claims or implies it’s from a particular AVA, 95 percent of the grapes must be from there, according to the Oregon Wine Board.
The federal TTB told Copper Cane that it has to ditch seven of its labels, agency spokesman Tom Hogue said.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission found last week that Copper Cane has committed seven violations and is seeking to revoke its ability to sell in Oregon, said commission spokesman Matthew VanSickle. The violations focus on Copper Cane’s improper use of AVA designations and “misleading statements on labeling.”
One major grocery store chain in Oregon, Fred Meyer, is already taking Copper Cane’s Elouan Pinot Noir and Willametter Journal wines off its shelves.
Gomberg wants the federal government to stop Copper Cane from selling Elouan wine in the other 49 states.
“Copper Cane claims they were simply engaged in ‘fanciful’ marketing,” Gomberg said. “But the state of Oregon has determined that they crossed the line from fanciful to fraudulent.”
Blumling and Copper Cane’s owner, Joe Wagner, will meet with Oregon Liquor Control Commission Executive Director Steven Marks on Wednesday to try to resolve the issue, Blumling said.
The company has already submitted new labels to the TTB that don’t mention Oregon winemaking regions and say only that the grapes come from prime Oregon vineyards, Blumling said. Those labels have been approved by the TTB, he said.
Copper Cane hopes the new labels also satisfy the Oregon liquor commission.
The previous labels had been in use for years until Gomberg and Bernau complained, the California winemakers said. They believe it was to edge out the competition. Last year, 120,000 cases of Elouan wine — over 1.4 million bottles — were sold nationwide, Blumling said.
“We’re being blatantly attacked,” Wagner said. “What’s disappointing is it’s for financial gain.”
In a Nov. 19 statement, Gomberg said that Elouan Pinot Noir and The Willametter Journal “look and taste like they have an additive” called Mega Purple, often used in California to make wines darker and thicker. Blumling called that “slanderous” and denied any such additive has been used.
He said Elouan’s growing national popularity, with sales up 50 percent in a year, will raise consumers’ consciousness and boost overall demand for Oregon pinot noir.
“We’re expecting that all boats rise with the tide,” Blumling said.
A lingering shortage from Oregon growers means Americans will once again pay more for Christmas trees this holiday season.
Chal Landgren, a Christmas tree specialist at Oregon State University, said tight supplies are the result of overproduction during the late 2000s that deflated prices and forced roughly one-third of farms to drop out of the business.
Oregon is still the top producer of Christmas trees in the U.S., though Landgren said there are about 400 fewer growers now compared to just three years ago, turning what was a glut of cheap trees into a deficit.
“It’s this sort of boom and bust (cycle) of agriculture,” Landgren said. “When people weren’t making any money, they just got out of the business.”
While the USDA did not conduct a survey for Christmas trees in 2018, Landgren said Oregon growers will likely ship around 5.2 million trees to retailers nationwide — or about the same as 2017. Past years’ harvests had been as high as 7 million to 9 million trees, he said.
It could take another six to 10 years for supply and demand to balance, Landgren added, based on the time it takes to grow popular species such as Douglas fir and Noble fir from seedling to holiday height.
“It takes a long time to go through the cycle of a Christmas tree,” he said.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, consumers reported spending an average of $75 per tree in 2017. Gary Snyder, president of the Kirk Co., a large tree grower with offices in Oregon City, Ore., said prices have risen 10-15 percent each year for the last three or four years.
Snyder said prices will be up a little bit again this year, but there should still be plenty of trees available.
“I don’t think there should be any issue with people finding a real tree,” Snyder said.
Bob Schaefer, general manager of Noble Mountain Tree Farm in Salem, Ore., said quality this year is “exceptional,” despite a record-setting drought and heat over the summer. Dry conditions actual helped production during harvest, Schaefer said, while timely rains in October provided some much-needed relief.
“The only thing that really impacted us was the hot, dry summer, but that didn’t impact our crop trees. It impacted our seedlings,” Schaefer said.
The weather-related impacts to seedlings is a concern for Landgren at OSU, since most of the region’s Christmas trees are grown without irrigation. Anecdotally, some farms reported up to 70 percent seedling mortality this summer, Landgren said, which is much higher than the average of 10-15 percent.
Landgren said the university is experimenting with ways to reduce seedling mortality, such as shading and chemical sprays to reduce water transpiration. If young trees continue to die at a rapid rate, he said it could result in another shortage five years down the road.
“Trying to get these trees to survive has been a bit of a challenge,” Landgren said.
McKenzie “Ken” Cook, of McKenzie Farms based in Estacada, Ore., said the industry has dealt with a long, hard struggle to rebound from this latest shortage. He said the number of trees grown in Oregon has fallen from 90 million to fewer than 40 million.
His company, which grows around 8 million trees in the Willamette Valley, faced nearly closing, with Cook having to go out of pocket to stay afloat, he said. Fortunately, he said the business was able to survive and is working to stabilize supply and demand.
Once that happens, Cook said he believes farmers are growing smarter now in order to avoid a similar situation in the future.
“I don’t see them jumping back in this category as a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” Cook said. “After four miserable cycles over a 40-year period, I don’t think this will be repeated again.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — An internal watchdog has cleared Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke of wrongdoing following a complaint that he redrew the boundaries of a national monument in Utah to benefit a state lawmaker and political ally.
The Interior Department’s office of inspector general says it found no evidence that Zinke gave veteran state Rep. Mike Noel preferential treatment in shrinking the boundaries of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Noel, who publicly pushed for the monument to be redrawn, owns land near the monument site, including a 40-acre parcel that was surrounded by the monument but now is outside its boundaries.
The report says investigators found no evidence that Zinke or other department officials knew of Noel’s financial interest in the revised boundaries or gave him preferential treatment. Noel, an outspoken critic of federal land management, is retiring next month after 16 years in the legislature.
The Associated Press obtained a summary of the report, which has not been released publicly.
Noel, a Republican, was on stage in Salt Lake City with President Donald Trump last December when Trump announced he was shrinking Grand Staircase and another Utah monument, Bears Ears National Monument.
The monuments were among four that Trump targeted for cutbacks to reverse what Trump calls overreach by Democratic presidents to protect federally controlled land. The other two monuments, in Oregon and Nevada, remain intact despite Trump’s promise to shrink them.
A spokeswoman for Zinke told the AP that the report “shows exactly what the secretary’s office has known all along — that the monument boundaries were adjusted in accordance with all rules, regulations and laws.”
The report “is also the latest example of political opponents and special interest groups ginning up fake and misleading stories, only to be proven false after expensive and time consuming inquiries by the IG’s office,” spokeswoman Heather Swift said in a statement.
Zinke faces other investigations, including one centered on a Montana land deal involving a foundation he created and the chairman of energy giant Halliburton, which does significant business with the Interior Department.
Investigators also are reviewing Zinke’s decision to block two tribes from opening a casino in Connecticut and a complaint that he reassigned a former Interior official in retaliation for criticizing Zinke.
At least one complaint has been referred to the Justice Department.
Zinke has denied wrongdoing and told the AP this month that he’s “100 percent confident” he will be cleared of all ethics allegations.
Trump has said he does not plan to fire Zinke but would “look into any complaints.”
Noel said in an email Monday that he never talked to Zinke or anyone at Interior about the monument boundaries “associated with my private property, nor did I receive any favorable treatment regarding my property.” He called the allegations against him and Zinke “reckless, unsubstantiated and totally without any facts.”
Chris Saeger, executive director of the Western Values Project, a Montana-based environmental group that filed a complaint against Zinke, said the inspector general’s office should immediately release the full report “and let the public judge the merits of the findings.” The groups said photos taken of Zinke and Noel together during a visit to Grand Staircase last year “seem to contradict” the report’s conclusion.
Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, who is set to become chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee in January, said he accepts the report’s findings, but added, “Secretary Zinke should have known the people he was listening to while destroying our national monuments had disqualifying conflicts of interest.”
Grijalva vowed scrutiny of the decisions to shrink Grand Staircase and Bears Ears when Democrats take control of the House.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has recommended for a California winery to lose its licenses to distribute wine or do retail business within the state.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports commission executive director Steven Marks sent a letter to the owner of Rutherford, California,-based Copper Cane LLC, saying multiple violations of Oregon labeling regulations were found.
The winery was accused of putting misleading labels on wines to make it appear they were produced in Oregon.
Regulations require labels to list Oregon as only the appellation of origin when the grapes cross into California.
Owner Joe Wagner says new Copper Cane labels will clearly state that the grapes are grown in Oregon and the wines are made in California.
The winery has until Dec. 20 to request a hearing on the commission charges.
Attorneys for the federal government and an Oregon farmer accused of Clean Water Act violations have told a judge the dispute is “settled in principle.”
While a court docket notice says the deal should be finalized by late February, farmer Bill Case of Linn County said he’s displeased with some recent demands from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The agency filed a lawsuit against Case in 2016 claiming he’d violated the Clean Water Act by stabilizing the bank of the North Santiam River with large “rip rap” rocks and expanding two levees along the waterway.
Case has long maintained that he completed the work with approval from state and federal officials but neglected to get the authorization in writing.
Earlier this year, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin found that Case should be held liable for the Clean Water Act violations without a jury trial and the ruling was soon affirmed by U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken.
Case said he’s now agreed to move a dike 10 feet farther away from the river, remove another dike entirely and pay a civil penalty of $100,000, but he disagrees with the EPA’s request to impose more conservation easements on farmland near the river, which would restrict its use.
Though he’s agreed to conduct excavation work on the dikes, Case said he still doesn’t believe the requirement makes sense, as the newly exposed soil will simply wash into the river.
“Right now, it’s working great. There’s no erosion or pollution in the river,” he said. “They just want it to erode into the water.”
Capital Press was unable to reach Kent Hanson, attorney for the government, as of press time.
The dikes have also become overgrown with beneficial trees and brush, all of which would be lost due to the excavation work, Case said. “They just want that destroyed.”
Case said he believes the EPA is demanding a solution in search of a problem, adding that he was optimistic a more reasonable settlement could be reached under former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who resigned in July.
“As soon as he resigned, here came the EPA again and the Department of Justice,” Case said.
EUGENE, Ore. — The need was ahead of the plan for David and Jane Kelly when they established Oregon Horse Rescue in 2013. They were in the midst of buying their horse sanctuary when they came across their first case of four neglected horses.
With the property sale not yet completed, the couple bought a truck and horse trailer to pick up the horses, and boarded them at a commercial stable until they officially launched.
“Jane and I have always been animal lovers and cared about the sad fact that in any situation animals are left off to the side,” Kelly said. “We wanted to do something to help them out. We’ve said since we met that we wanted to have a rescue.”
The nonprofit gives a home to horses who are on their last legs. Many of their horses are elderly, blind, disabled or have been abused and neglected. While they also take horses that are surrendered and could be rehabilitated, Their focus is offering a forever home.
“Our priorities for the sanctuary is: Does (the horse) have a good quality of life? Could we offer that?” Lea Brayton, program director, said. “We take horses that would otherwise be put down and there wouldn’t be another option. The horses being rehabbed we don’t seek out, but if offered to us we’ll take them.”
At its highest occupancy, Oregon Horse Rescue will house as many as 60 horses on its 70-acre pasture outside Eugene, Ore. At the moment, to remain sustainable the numbers have gone down to 30.
“The need is there,” Kelly said. “We have so many neglected and abused horses in Lane County and the surrounding areas. We can’t help them all but we can make a start. Since our founding we have helped over 100 horses.”
There have also been around 12 rehabilitated horses that have been adopted to loving homes over the years. Kelly said one of those horses have gone on to competitions and won.
Horses will come to the rescue through surrenders or auctions. Brayton said horses are neglected for a variety of reasons, most of which are economical rather than malice. For her, some of the saddest stories are when a horse’s owners die and the animal is surrendered.
“This was someone’s family member,” she said.
In most cases, the history of the horse isn’t well-documented, and Brayton said it’s the bodies of the horses that tell their stories. “It shows the trauma and abuse, and where there’s been a tough past,” she said. One of her favorite horses is Earl, who has significant scarring on his body.
“He’s very reserved and timid, but we’ve seen him open up over the time he’s been here,” she said.
One of the biggest challenge Oregon Horse Rescue faces is financial. Kelly said the organization has “wonderful donors,” but the reality is majority of the financial support comes from Kelly and his wife.
“It’s not sustainable,” he said.
He said he hopes the addition of Brayton to the team will give the organization more opportunities. Brayton said she wants to upgrade their fundraising and find creative ways to fund the program. She said while grants are an important part of the nonprofit sector, as an equine organization they are at a disadvantage.
“When we think of nonprofit grants, the animal sector only has 10 percent of those grants, and the equine funds are even smaller,” she said. “It’s a very small portion of a large pie.”
Kelly said the need to help horses is more emotional than it is rational.
“But the rational part is that these are magnificent thinking creatures with personality,” he said. “They deserve respect and care. Each horse’s story is different. For the most part, these are all beings that were cared for and cared about. It’s a tragedy through combination of circumstances and evil intent that they’re no longer cared about, and they deserve to be brought back into that loving, caring place.”
ROCKVILLE, Ore. — When Mike Greeley was 12, he shot his first sage grouse on his father’s Malheur County cattle ranch near the Idaho border.
Nowadays, the ground-dwelling bird native to the West has been in steady decline for decades, no thanks in part to juniper trees, “water suckers,” Greeley, who is now 60, calls them. Although juniper is native, the tree has expanded into areas it had never occupied before, creating erosion issues, crowding out grasses and forbs that create natural forage for Greeley’s 450 head of Angus cross cattle, and his ruining habitat for his beloved targets, the sage grouse.
When Greeley took over his father’s nearly 5,000-acre ranch, he made a few changes that reflect this area’s longstanding shortage of water, and his own commitment to water, wildlife and soil conservation.
“My family’s been here for over a hundred years,” he said from his home perched on a hill above his ranch and Rockville’s 1897 schoolhouse, where he and his father and his children had attended grade school.
A quick look at his family history paints a picture of the rancher Greeley has become: His great-grandmother, divorced and raising four children in the 1890s, moved from California to a land claim south of Burns. Her son, Andrew Sr., Greeley’s grandfather, grew up working cattle and breaking horses, landing his own ranch on the Owyhee River when he was still a teenager. In 1903, Andrew Sr. registered the Greeley Ranch brand that is still used today.
When the river was dammed in the late 1920s, Andrew Sr. moved to a new spread around Mahogany Mountain and Rockville, and started a family. The Greeley Ranch became a base for the expanding cattle operation that became the passion of Andrew “Bud” Jr., Mike Greeley’s father.
Although he helped his father regularly on the ranch until Bud died in 2007, Mike hadn’t planned to be a rancher. Instead, he earned his college degree in industrial arts, and spent the next 30 years teaching the subject in high schools nearby.
“I hated the ranch work when I was a kid. I liked running the equipment, but I hated working with cows. Now I’ve figured out what pays the bills,” Greeley said.
When he took over the ranch more than 10 years ago, he began to re-create the 100-year-old ranch with an eye to a sustainable future.
Among those changes: The juniper that had been expanding its hold on his land for all of those years had to go. It was not only crowding out the sage grouse, which didn’t like to fly in juniper-thick areas, but the trees were also using precious water needed by the native grasses his cattle use for forage. When Greeley heard about the NRCS program that helped pay to remove juniper, he connected with Malheur County’s staff and began to cut in 2015. By next year, Greeley estimates his crews will have cut nearly 1,700 acres of juniper on his land.
Already, the grouse are returning and the grasses are rebounding.
Greeley has changed a few other traditions on his farm, with an eye to reduce costs and labor, and increasing herd and land health. Among them:
• Spring calves: Traditionally, Eastern Oregon ranchers calve in January, believing the calves are heartier. But the loss to cold weather and the extra cost for feed convinced Greeley to change to a March calving season. Where his father once lost 10 percent of his calves to sickness and coyotes, his son now loses less than 3 percent, and spends less because the cattle are sooner on pasture feed.
• Native grass forage: Restoring springs and protecting natural grasses and habitat is good for native wildlife, and it’s good for his cattle, Greeley said. He rotates grazing pastures each three years while the cattle are on the ranch in the fall and winter. In the spring and summer, his cattle are on adjacent BLM land. As recent fires on BLM land have reduced access, he’s had to increase pasture on his own land, making its health is even more important.
• Keeping costs down: Although he has two big trucks for hauling livestock trailers, his everyday rigs are old Toyotas and UTVs, to keep gas costs low. He and his wife, Theresa, and one hired man run the operation, with some seasonal help, to keep labor costs low.
• Haying practices: Greeley changed the way he cuts his hay fields, beginning in the middle and moving to the outside, to allow birds time to escape. He steers around nests and has attached flusher bars to his cutting equipment to give wildlife a three-foot head start.
“I’m still in business. We’ve got through the tough times. We’re still doing OK. I guess we’re doing something right,” Greeley said.
GEARHART, Ore. — Located just off Highway 101 near Gearhart, is an agricultural operation that many people might more closely associate with the state of Washington than Clatsop County. But cranberries are grown here and when the time is right, they have to get out of the field and into a waiting truck. That’s when the Bogh family puts on their waders, grabs tools and trudges out into the water. They spend more than a month flooding bogs and gathering the berries that float to the surface.
The family tradition of growing and harvesting cranberries goes back a generation but now, it is Dan, Trinda, Justin and Travis Bogh who spend over a month flooding bogs and gathering the berries that float to the surface. Trinda Bogh said, while 2015 was a record-breaking year for the Oregon cranberry harvest, this year is poised to be just as bountiful.
A Napa Valley winery at the center of a labeling dispute in Oregon has agreed to put new labels on two brands of Oregon Pinot noir, following an investigation by federal regulators.
The wines in question — Elouan and The Willametter Journal — are made by Copper Cane LLC, based in Rutherford, Calif. The winery buys grapes from roughly 50 Oregon growers to make Pinot noir and rosé back in California.
Oregon winemakers raised concerns about Copper Cane’s labels earlier this year, which they felt were misleading to consumers by suggesting the wines were made in one of Oregon’s high-value American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs.
Federal law prohibits using an AVA name on labels, containers or bottles unless the wine was made in that state, and likewise forbids language that “tends to create a misleading perception.”
Copper Cane surrendered nine labels to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, though the company was granted a “use-up” allowance, which allows them to finish selling what they have already bottled and labeled.
Tom Hogue, a spokesman for the TTB in Washington, D.C., did not comment specifically about the investigation, but said the agency determined labels for Elouan and The Willametter Journal should not have been approved in the first place.
In the case of The Willametter Journal, the label was stylized as an old telegram, hailing the wine from the “Willamette region of Oregon’s coastal range” and sourced from the “Territory of Oregon.” Cases of Elouan Oregon Coast Pinot noir also referenced the Willamette, Rogue and Umpqua valleys, all three of which are federally designated AVAs.
Joe Wagner, founder and owner of Copper Cane, defended his labeling practices, saying the grapes are 100 percent from Oregon and they had hoped to communicate that fact through fun and fanciful language.
“We’ve never misguided consumers,” Wagner said. “We’re very transparent about all those elements.”
Wagner said they received new labels for the brands on Nov. 19, which drops all mention to specific geographic regions. Instead, the wines will be labeled as “Grown in Oregon, Made in California.”
Jim Bernau, founder and CEO of Willamette Valley Vineyards south of Salem, Ore., has been a vocal critic of Copper Cane’s labels. The laws are in place for a reason, Bernau said, and that is to protect the authenticity, value and reputation of unique wine growing areas.
Bernau said he was pleased to see the TTB take quick and serious action, though there is still work to be done. He said two more Elouan labels are still causing problems, including Missoula Wash and Klamath’s Kettle, which infer the Willamette and Rogue AVAs.
“This is a pattern of deception quite sophisticated in nature,” Bernau said. “If this kind of behavior is allowed to continue, we won’t have an Oregon wine industry.”
The issue has also drawn the attention of Oregon legislators, including Rep. David Gomberg, a Democrat representing the central coast. Gomberg — who owns an investment stake in Willamette Valley Vineyards — testified about Copper Cane’s labels during a hearing Sept. 24 before the House Interim Committee on Economic Development and Trade, and issued a statement Nov. 19 after the labels were surrendered.
“This is consumer fraud, pure and simple, and I am glad the federal agency has caught it,” Gomberg said.
However, both Gomberg and Bernau expressed disappointment about the “use-up” allowance, saying it will continue to denigrate Oregon’s AVAs by allowing an estimated 900,000 more bottles to be sold into the market with deceptive labels.
“That’s more than the annual production of 15 Oregon wineries,” Gomberg said.
Wagner said they should finish off the remaining inventory within the next six months. Jim Blumling, vice president of operations for Copper Cane, said they see nothing but positive growth for their brands across the country.
“We love being a part of the Oregon wine enterprise, and we feel privileged to get the fruit from the growers we do business with,” Blumling said.
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — People may need to trim back their Christmas tree expectations this year.
A tight supply means some shoppers will be paying more and searching longer for that perfect Christmas tree this holiday season. But there’s no need for panic buying on Black Friday as industry experts say consumers will end up with something to decorate this holiday season.
The yuletide market imbalance was created a decade ago when a glut of Christmas trees and the Great Recession combined to drive many growers out of business. Now the supply is tight and it takes eight to 10 years — the time needed to grow a Christmas tree — to boost the supply.
“It’s bad. It’s the worst I’ve seen in a long time,” said Matthew LaCasce, co-owner of the Finestkind Christmas tree farm in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine. The farm sells about 10,000 trees each season and is turning down orders every day from desperate retailers, LaCasce said.
Larger retailers are doing just fine, officials say. It’s the smaller charitable organizations, school groups, and mom-and-pop operators that have had to scramble for trees.
In Hawaii, Christmas tree seller Richard Tajiri said he ended up 1,000 trees short this season.
“It’s going to be tough for everybody. There’s nothing you can do about it,” said Tajiri, who is fielding several dozen calls a day in Honolulu. “It’s first come, first served.”
Lovell’s Florist and Nursery in Medford, Massachusetts, resorted to a hodgepodge of suppliers from Canada, North Carolina and the West Coast because the regular wholesaler couldn’t deliver, owner LaVerne Lovell said. They were expecting their final 1,000 trees to be delivered Friday.
“It was about two days of complete panic,” she recalled. “The Christmas season carries us through the winter. If we don’t have any trees, it would’ve been a real nightmare.”
The American Legion in Dover, Massachusetts, also had to search high and low for 450 trees for its annual fundraiser. “It’s getting tough,” said Tom McGill, who oversees the effort.
Supply and demand problems are nothing new. Like other crops, Christmas trees are a commodity that goes through cycles from too few trees to an oversupply. But regional factors are also exacerbating the problem.
For example, a spring frost damaged trees at some farms in Canada’s Nova Scotia, choking off some supply in the Northeast. Some Canadian farms in New Brunswick are buried under snow from recent storms, making it difficult for them to get trees onto trucks for shipment.
A shortage of Fraser trees, the most popular on the East Coast, had some North Carolina buyers scrambling to find balsam firs in New England. In Oregon, some people are taking Fraser fir trees from the East instead of noble firs that are the most popular tree on the West Coast.
“Supply and demand seem to always be in some flux,” Chal Landgren, a Christmas tree specialist and professor at Oregon State University, said via email.
All told, U.S. consumers are expected to buy about 27 million trees, roughly the same as the last two years, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.
Most people will find what they want, but prices could be a bit higher than last year’s average retail price of about $75, said Tim O’Connor, the association’s director.
With the lean supply, shoppers might want to start early if they want a lot of choice and variety.
Spencer Putman, of Weybridge, Vermont, didn’t worry himself about a purchase. He simply paid $5 for a permit to chop down his own tree in the 400,000-acre Green Mountain National Forest. “I don’t think we are going to run out of them very soon,” he said.
Associated Press writers David Sharp in Portland, Maine, and Wilson Ring in Montpelier contributed to this report.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson spearheads an 11-state coalition joining the fight to overturn President Donald Trump’s downsizing of two national monuments in Utah, a court battle that the American Farm Bureau Federation says will affect the value of federal rangelands and private ranches in the West.
Ferguson’s office submitted two identical briefs Monday to the federal district court in Washington, D.C., siding with tribes and environmental groups suing Trump over the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
The briefs argue that the Antiquities Act of 1906 gives presidents power to create national monuments, but not to shrink them. “Simply put, the Act is a one-way ratchet in favor of preservation,” the brief states.
The Trump administration last year roughly halved the 1.7 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante monument created by President Bill Clinton in 1996. It also reduced by about 85 percent the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears monument designated by President Barack Obama in 2016.
The Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Hopi Tribe and others are seeking to overturn the actions. Two cases are moving forward, one for each monument. The American Farm Bureau Federation is seeking a judge’s permission to intervene in both to support Trump’s action.
Ferguson has now filed 11 amicus briefs favoring lawsuits against the Trump administration. His office also reports suing the administration 32 times. Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon and Xavier Becerra of California were among the other attorneys general who signed the brief on the national monuments.
Ferguson argues that the states have an interest in what happens in Utah because they depend on the permanence of national monument boundaries in making their own outdoor recreation and wildlife management spending plans.
“My office is committed to defending these national treasures in Washington state and throughout the country,” Ferguson said in a written statement.
Judge Tanya Chutkan, an Obama appointee presiding over both cases, has yet to rule on motions by the Trump administration to dismiss the suits. She denied motions by the Justice Department to have the cases moved to federal court in Utah.
The Justice Department argues the law and history are on Trump’s side. The Antiquities Act does not give presidents unlimited power to put land in national monuments. The monuments must be confined to the smallest area compatible with protecting cultural resources, according to the Justice Department.
Presidents reduced national monuments 12 times between 1909 and 1960, according to the Congressional Research Service. In 1915, Woodrow Wilson removed 313,280 acres from Mount Olympus National Monument, the forerunner of Olympic National Park. The reduction remains the largest ever for a national monument and cut Olympus by nearly half.
Chutkan has yet to rule on the Farm Bureau’s motion to intervene. In a court filing, the Farm Bureau said national monuments lead to limits on livestock grazing. One Utah ranching family with a grazing allotment in the Grand Staircase-Escalate monument now spends $25,000 to $50,000 more a year on feed, according to the Farm Bureau.
Since ranching in the West is so dependent on federal land, the monuments have the effect of reducing the value of private ranches, according to the Farm Bureau. “Grazing allotments in the Monuments are not just land, they are the linchpin of the western ranching community,” according to a Farm Bureau court filing.
Besides Oregon and California, the other states that joined the Washington-led brief are Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Massachusetts.
Scott White, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association in Klamath Falls, Ore., announced Monday he will resign from the job following a 2018 irrigation season plagued by drought and uncertainty.
White, 40, joined the KWUA in February 2016. The association represents 1,200 family farms and ranches within the Klamath Project, a federal water management project that encompasses over 170,000 acres in Southern Oregon and Northern California.
“I’ve been blessed to work for these guys the last three years,” White told the Capital Press. “It becomes who you are. It’s an identity that I’m extremely proud of, and it’s not easy to walk away from.”
White’s last day is Friday, Nov. 30. KWUA President Brad Kirby said the board will act promptly to fill the position. Until then, KWUA attorney Paul Simmons will fill in as interim executive director.
Kirby, who also serves as manager of the Tulelake Irrigation District in Tulelake, Calif., said White was “the right person at the right time” to lead the association through a challenging period that included very dry conditions, multiple lawsuits and a court injunction.
“We’re united and stronger than we were when Scott arrived,” Kirby said.
Ultimately, White said the stress took a toll on him and his family.
This year was especially nerve-wracking, as growers had to wait until June before the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation issued its annual water allotment for the Klamath Project while balancing demands for fish.
On April 30, a federal judge in San Francisco upheld a 2017 injunction that requires the bureau to send more water from Upper Klamath Lake downstream to flush away a deadly salmon-killing parasite, known as C. shasta, in the lower Klamath River.
At the same time, the Klamath Tribes also sued the Bureau of Reclamation, National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking to hold more water in Upper Klamath Lake to protect endangered shortnose and Lost River suckers. The same judge, William Orrick, denied their request for an injunction and transferred the case to U.S. District Court in Oregon.
Meanwhile, drought only compounded fears of water shortages heading into summer, set up by below-average mountain snowpack. White said he felt like there was a crisis on his hands almost every single day.
“There is just this ache of anxiety in your chest around the clock,” he said. “It hit me hard.”
But it wasn’t all bad news in 2018. As difficult as it was, White said they did make it through the season and came out the other side with up to $10 million in emergency relief for future drought years — a provision written into the America’s Water and Infrastructure Act of 2018, which was signed by President Donald Trump on Oct. 23.
White said the new KWUA executive director will be responsible for ensuring those dollars are appropriated, possibly as early as next year given forecasts for a warmer and drier winter across the Pacific Northwest due to El Nino.
As for himself, White said he plans to take December off, taking time to decompress and recharge his batteries.
“These guys mean a lot to me, and I am sincerely hopeful there is a secure and prosperous future for all of them,” White said.
Oregon’s farm regulators have submitted several possible scenarios for overseeing canola production in the Willamette Valley to legislative leaders.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture was required to submit its report to the Legislature in mid-November under laws that allow for 500 acres of canola production a year until 2019, when the agency’s expected to adopt a new system for regulating the controversial crop.
Canola has been the subject of policy disputes since at least 2013, when ODA attempted to relax restrictions on its cultivation. Specialty seed producers worry it will cross-pollinate with related Brassica seed crops and potentially increase disease pressure in the region.
Farmers who want to grow canola hope to rotate it with grass seed and wheat while harvesting a commodity that can easily be sold without contract obligations.
In its report recently submitted to lawmakers, ODA doesn’t specifically provide its preferred regulatory scenario but instead provides options the agency could pursue under its existing legal authority as well as those that would require additional legislation to expand that authority.
• Exclusion zone — Under this option, ODA could use its existing “control district” authority to form an advisory board that would help design a potential “exclusion zone” where canola would come under stricter regulation.
The agency recently floated the idea of creating a 889,000-acre exclusion zone for canola, down from 1.96 million acres under an earlier proposal. The area of cropland within the newly proposed exclusion zone would be 624,000 acres, compared to 980,000 acres under the previous plan.
The ODA acknowledges that under this option, there would remain “questions about isolations distances required to maintain seed purity and how to resolve conflicts between growers near the borders” and notes stakeholders haven’t come to consensus on such issues.
• No exclusion zone — Without creating a formal exclusion zone, ODA could use its existing authority to impose new requirements on all growers of Brassica crops, such as treating seeds and otherwise controlling diseases and insects, following minimum rotation periods between Brassica plantings and killing any Brassica volunteers before they flower to reduce cross-pollination risks.
While this option would follow the findings of an Oregon State University report which said canola poses no greater hazards that other Brassica crops, it “may not specifically protect the unique attributes of the specialty seed industry, because of the lack of an exclusion zone,” the report said.
• Extend existing system — The Legislature could extend the existing system, under which ODA is in charge of “pinning” 500 acres of canola a year to reduce cross-pollination risks, with the possibility that a larger acreage level could be phased in over time. As the agency notes, however, “nothing in the OSU report indicates that there is a scientific reason for limiting the number of canola acres in the Willamette Valley Protected District.”
• Statewide pinning — New legislation could require a statewide pinning system for Brassicas maintained by ODA or OSU, which would be “equitable for both specialty seed and canola growers” but would require additional resources to enforce, the report said. Also, the administrative rules for state government agencies would “not allow for quick resolution of conflicts between growers.”
The report said that ODA plans to begin a rulemaking process by the end of the year to provide farmers with certainty before the summer of 2019, when canola fields would be harvested for the final time under existing rules. A copy of the canola recommendation report can be found online at oda.direct/canola.
Thanksgiving traditionally means food, family and football on TV, but for Willamette Valley wineries it also ushers in one of the biggest and most important sales weekends of the year.
Wine Country Thanksgiving is Nov. 23-25, with more than 140 wineries from Portland to Eugene opening their doors for special events, tastings and offering new releases. Some wineries, such as Ken Wright Cellars in Carlton, Ore., also host private gatherings for wine club members and invited guests the previous weekend, adding to the festivities.
Ken Wright, who founded the winery in 1994, said he figures to do 20 percent of his annual retail business around Thanksgiving.
“It’s by far the most profitable weekend we have, by a mile,” Wright said.
Wright was expecting more than 1,100 guests for a private barrel tasting Nov. 17, where wine lovers could get an early taste of 2018 Pinot noir from several nearby vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley. Harvest only just finished in October, and the wine has spent barely a month aging and fermenting in oak barrels.
Judy Erdman and Richard Stinson, self-described “wine groupies” from Portland, walked between the rows of barrels in the dimly lit winery, savoring sips of the budding Burgundy. Erdman said they never miss a chance to enjoy Thanksgiving in Oregon’s wine country.
“It’s after harvest. You get to talk to the winemakers and figure out how things went,” she said. “You’re looking to the future.”
Compared to other renowned wine regions around the world, Oregon’s wine industry is still relatively young, with the first present-day wineries established in the late 1950s.
Since then, the number of wineries in Oregon has grown to 769, along with 1,114 vineyards and $5.61 billion in annual statewide economic impact. Between 2013 and 2016, winery sales increased 46 percent to $529 million, overall retail sales increased 18 percent to $1.04 billion and wine-related tourism skyrocketed 167 percent to $787 million, according to a report released earlier this year by Full Glass Research, an independent marketing company based in Berkeley, Calif.
Tourism and direct-to-consumer marketing are at the heart of Wine Country Thanksgiving, now in its 36th year organized by the Willamette Valley Winegrowers Association. Morgen McLaughlin, the association’s executive director, said it is difficult to track the precise dollar value of the promotion, since not all wineries share their sales figures.
“It certainly is a very important tourism weekend,” McLaughlin said. “We have wineries that will see 20 to 50 people a day. Other wineries will see more than a thousand a day. It is a very important weekend for visitation.”
One winery that does share sales data, as a publicly traded company, is Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner, Ore. Its most recent annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows fourth-quarter revenue in 2017 at $5.9 million, more than any other quarter during the year. The first quarter brought in $4.45 million, then $5.3 million in the second quarter and $5.1 million in the third quarter.
“Typically, first quarter sales are the lowest of any given year, and sales volumes increase progressively through the fourth quarter mostly because of consumer buying habits,” the report states.
Jim Bernau, founder and CEO of Willamette Valley Vineyards, said those habits are driven by the holiday season.
“It’s the time of year when people really want to celebrate,” Bernau said. “They often will have family that travel from outside of Oregon, and people love bringing them out to the wineries to show (them) what’s happening in Oregon, and the quality of our wines.”
Wine Country Thanksgiving can trace its early roots back to David Lett, a pioneer of Willamette Valley Pinot noir, who founded the Eyrie Vineyards in McMinnville, Ore. with his wife, Diana, in 1965.
By the early 1970s, no wineries had opened tasting rooms, but Diana Lett remembers envisioning what would become their first Thanksgiving get-together. It was just before harvest in 1974 when she and David were having dinner with local Gary Lawrence, and they thought it would be fun to put on an event featuring Eyrie wines and art.
“We decided that an ideal time would be the weekend right after Thanksgiving, since we would be done with harvest and people would be looking for something to do with their relatives,” Diana Lett said.
The winery, located in a former food processing plant, transformed into a beautifully decorated tasting room and art gallery, she remembers, with music from their friends Timothy Swain and his Early Music Calliope group. Their other friends, Hank and Helen Hazen, brought in their crepe cart, and guests were lined up all the way around the block.
Diana Lett said they had no idea their little celebration would become the industry’s signature annual event.
“We weren’t trying to think that far ahead,” she said. “We hoped there would be a small industry that would grow here.”
McLaughlin, with the Willamette Valley Wineries Association, said things have changed between then and now as more wineries have tasting rooms open year-round with regular hours, along with wine clubs and online shopping. Thanksgiving and Memorial Day weekends are no longer the only times when wineries have guests, though the holidays remain important fixtures on the their calendar.
“I think what’s fun is all of the wineries offer very different experiences,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a good time, too, to look for wineries that you may not have ever visited, or a chance to explore new places.”
Bernau, with Willamette Valley Vineyards, said their goal is to tell the story of Oregon through wine, from Pinot noir from the lush Willamette Valley to Rhone varieties, such as Syrah, in the more arid climates of the Walla Walla Valley.
“Oregonians have so much pride in their state, and what this does is it allows them to really see what our state can do,” Bernau said. “We love telling the Oregon story through wine, while serving as good stewards of the land.”
Not surprisingly, Bernau said the 2018 vintage is shaping up to be another high-quality year. The summer was certainly dry, but not too hot for the grapes, while deep volcanic soils were able to hold enough moisture for the vines to stay productive.
For the first time he can recall, Bernau said there was no rain during harvest, which made for ideal working conditions in the vineyards.
“I would say this was probably the most idyllic harvest I can remember,” Bernau said. “It was just extraordinary. I just hope the wine turns out as beautiful as the summer was.”
Steve Robertson, owner of SJR Vineyard and Delmas Winery in Milton-Freewater, Ore., said conditions were similarly good on the east side of the state. The region experienced a wet spring, which put enough moisture in the ground leading up to a hot summer.
Perhaps most critically, Robertson, who also serves as president of The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater American Viticultural Area, said things cooled down “beautifully” in August, which allowed the grapes to preserve acids and maintain flavor profile.
“Things need to cool down at the right time,” Robertson said. “Otherwise, you don’t have a very interesting flavor component.”
Neither region should be concerned about smoke taint from wildfires burning across the West, Bernau and Robertson both said. Southern Oregon, on the other hand, is having to defend the quality of its crop after Copper Cane, a winery in California’s Napa Valley, canceled 2,000 tons of grapes just before harvest, citing smoke damage.
The cancellations came just before harvest, leaving vineyards without enough time to recover. Shipments were valued at $4 million, putting those growers in a major financial bind.
“Hopefully, these people will be able to survive for another year,” said John Pratt, owner of Celestina Vineyard in Medford, Ore., and president of the Rogue Valley Winegrowers Association.
To support the affected vintners and defend the region’s quality, a group of Willamette Valley wineries — including Willamette Valley Vineyards and the Eyrie Vineyards — purchased over 140 tons of the grapes to make Pinot noir, Chardonnay and rosé under the name “Oregon Solidarity.”
“We wouldn’t have brought that fruit in if we thought it was (tainted),” Bernau said. “We might have the best vintage in Rogue Valley history, and it might be unbelievably rare.”