OPINION: Counting the Ballots in Lincoln County

By Kai Huschke

This week’s vote in Lincoln County, Oregon on Measure 21-177 — a first-in-the nation countywide Freedom from Aerial Sprayed Pesticides ordinance — is still undecided, though the current count has the measure passing by 27 votes. If adopted, Measure 21-177 would secure environmental and democratic rights of residents and ecosystems, including the right to be free from aerial sprayed pesticides.

According to the Lincoln County Clerk there are 100 ballots that are unsigned and would need to be in order for those votes to enter the official count. Voters have until May 30th to sign their ballots. An automatic or requested recount is possible once the final voting report has been released.

Lincoln residents have faced decades of toxic aerial pesticide spraying by the industrial timber industry. Timber corporations repeatedly aerial spray toxic pesticides on clearcuts to kill off “competing” vegetation and animals that threaten newly planted and young commodity crop trees. Residents have been working with CELDF since 2013 to protect themselves from the dangerous practice. Lincoln County’s Measure 21-177, drafted with CELDF’s assistance, bans the aerial spray of pesticides in order to secure the right to clean air, water, and the overall right to health of people and ecosystems.

“Though it’s not official yet, the voters of Lincoln County have spoken up loudly to voice their desire to stop a forty-year corporate assault of people, plants, and animals, by banning aerial spraying of pesticides,” said Maria Kraus, lead campaigner for Citizens for a Healthy County, proponents of Measure 21-177. “A win isn’t just about stopping the harm brought by corporations, but a harm that has been allowed and protected by our own state government against the consent of the people and nature, and contrary to any respect for life.”

Regarding the potential passage of the Lincoln measure, Kai Huschke, CELDF Northwest Organizer, stated, “Communities across Oregon and the country are mobilizing to secure their democratic and environmental rights. People are recognizing that we cannot achieve sustainability when corporations define our energy and environmental policies.” He added, “Because of the Lincoln campaign, and many others, the veil is pulled back for Oregon residents across the state. There is much more clarity around how corporate claimed ‘rights’ are blocking the right of local community self-government – and Oregon residents are doing something about it.”

The impressive outcome of the vote took place despite staggering campaign contributions from timber and chemical corporations. Nearly $300,000 was spent to try and defeat Measure 21-177. Lincoln residents fought back with $18,000.

Community rights campaigns are also underway in Columbia and Lane Counties, where residents are petitioning for upcoming ballots. Columbia residents are and have faced a number of fossil fuel projects, and are advancing a “right to a sustainable energy future” ordinance for the November 2017 ballot. Lane is actively petitioning for a ban on aerial spray of herbicides and the right of local community self-government, aiming for the May 2018 ballot.

Oregon Communities Part of Growing Movement

Oregon residents are advancing local democratic and environmental rights as part of the broader “community rights” movement building across the United States. Local communities and state Community Rights Networks are partnering with CELDF to advance fundamental democratic and environmental rights. They are working with CELDF to establish community rights and the rights of nature in law, and prohibit extraction, fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other industrial activities as violations of those rights. Communities are joining together within and across states, working with CELDF to advance systemic change — recognizing our existing system of law and governance as inherently undemocratic and unsustainable.

For information on the Lincoln County campaign, go to: yes-on-21-177.org. For information on community rights efforts in Oregon visit: orcrn.org. For information on the community rights efforts in Columbia and Lane counties go to: facebook.com/ccsage.org/ and communityrightslanecounty.org/

About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.

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