Sustainable Northwest leads rural effort
By Adam Worcester, Contributing writer
Martin Goebel believes sustainability begins in rural communities.
That's why Sustainable Northwest, the Portland-based nonprofit he founded in 1994, has focused its attention on locales far from the bustling downtowns of major metropolises.
"Rural businesses, products and services are very germane to urban environments," Goebel said. "I think sustainability saves everybody lots of money. The second thing is, it produces fresh water, thriving wildlife, a healthy forest, clean air — things we all need."
Sustainable Northwest aims to fashion consensus among disparate parties, such as small towns, the federal government and special-interest groups, to solve thorny issues centered around land use, water conservation and economic development.
Most of these battles rage in poor agricultural communities such as Wallowa County, where in 1996 Sustainable Northwest helped forge a local nonprofit, Wallowa Resources, to "develop, promote, and implement innovative solutions to help the people of Wallowa County and the Intermountain West sustain and improve their communities and their lands," according to its mission statement.
More recently, Sustainable Northwest has been active in the Klamath River Basin, a Switzerland-sized area along the Oregon-California border where for years Native Americans, fishermen, farmers, federal agencies and local governments have clashed over water use.
Its mediation efforts culminated earlier this year with the signing of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, a proposal that would implement a broad set of measures to restore fisheries and spur economic development in the region. A key feature of the agreement is the removal of four major dams on the Klamath River.
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