Stop Uinta Basin Railway Solidarity Action


Stop Uinta Basin Railway Solidarity Action FlyerWild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and climate activists throughout the West are organizing solidarity protests of oil trains and infrastructure, for a day of action against the Uinta Basin Railway (UBR), supporting campaigns against the Utah oil-by-rail scheme and in north Idaho, denouncing completion of BNSF Railway’s second, almost mile-long, rail bridge across the state’s largest, deepest lake: mountainous Lake Pend Oreille.  Utah and Colorado comrades are calling for community-led actions on Saturday, December 10, 2022, to show that concerned citizens object to the devastating UBR project, and to pressure federal lawmakers, state representatives, and local governments to prevent building of the Uinta Basin Railway.  They ask everyone to explore the #StopUintaBasinRailway action toolkit with information about the UBR and action coordination, sign a letter to Agriculture Department Secretary Tom Vilsack, demanding that he revoke the U.S. Forest Service permit for the railway, participate in actions happening in a dozen locations, register to join a remote phone bank on Tuesday, December 13, at 10 am Pacific time, and tell UBR opponents that you are interested in assisting this campaign [1-2].

To involve local communities across the United States in advocating against UBR permits and their potential disasters for climate and environmental justice, Colorado groups held a public, online, action training on November 10 [3].  Organizers with years of experience shared ideas about planning effective actions and helped participants learn about the UBR oil trains that would threaten lives and livelihoods along rail routes from Utah to Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana, and around the southern Northwest, Union Pacific Railroad (UP) line across southern Idaho and eastern Oregon to western Washington.

Most of WIRT and allied resistance to behemoth oil and coal train shipments has successfully focused on dozens of BNSF Railway fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails routes from the Great Plains to the West Coast.  We rarely demonstrate against Union Pacific, except while decrying its few weekly, Northwest, tar sands trains and myriad derailments, including the Mosier, Oregon, oil train spill and fire in June 2016.  Based on our experiences of BNSF’s ongoing malfeasance, WIRT encouraged and sent extensive comments on the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) in 2021, opposing the Uinta Basin Railway, and talked about the issue during recent years on our weekly, Climate Justice Forum, radio program [4].  WIRT remains steadfast in our thorough monitoring, reporting, and protesting of daily, BNSF, Bakken crude oil trains across north Idaho, as we gratefully accept dedicated co-workers’ invitations to alert our regional neighbors to the impending dangers and direct action opportunities of Utah oil transport across the Northwest.

Uinta Basin & BNSF Railways Protest

As part of countless demonstrations against the fossil fuel causes of the climate crisis and their insidious pollution, risks, and impacts on north Idaho and Northwest rail line communities, we plan to protest both the proposed Uinta Basin Railway oil trains and tracks and the BNSF Railway expansion of its industrial infrastructure into Lake Pend Oreille and Sandpoint, with three second rail bridges and two miles of doubled main line.  Please dress for warmth and dryness, bring your signs and banners, voices and drums, friends and family, and joy and courage, and join WIRT and inland Northwest activists for the Stop Uinta Basin Railway Solidarity Action at 12 noon on Saturday, December 10, at the Serenity Lee trailhead near the East Superior Street and Highway 95 intersection and/or on the public, pedestrian, and bike path to Dog Beach Park in Sandpoint, Idaho.  WIRT will provide on-site action advice and chants and pizza for appreciated participants after the gathering.  Respond in advance with your questions and suggestions, share this event information and flyer among your associates and contacts, and see previous and upcoming, website- and facebook-posted, WIRT newsletters and alerts, for further updates on these issues.

Uinta Basin Railway Opposition Continue reading

Seventh Panhandle Paddle

Seventh Panhandle Paddle Flyer

Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allied activists, friends, and supporters heartily welcome your participation in the upcoming, Seventh Panhandle Paddle weekend of opportunities to discuss, train for, and stage resistance to the fossil fuels and railroad industry degraders of human rights, environmental health, and the global climate.  Interior Northwest residents are coordinating and co-hosting annual activities in Sandpoint, Idaho, to unite in opposition to regional coal, oil, and tar sands trains, terminals, and derailments and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s almost complete track and bridge construction across downtown Sandpoint, Sand Creek, and Lake Pend Oreille.  Amid the intensifying situations of north Idaho railroad expansion, federal and media criminalization of dissenters, and COVID-19 health and economic disasters during the last two-plus years, we are reaching out to you, our regional network comrades, to share direct action skills and invite you to join with rail line communities, to protest fossil-fueled climate change via these free events on Thursday through Sunday, September 22 to 25.  We would appreciate your involvement in the talk, workshop, and paddle, your RSVP of your intentions for spots in kayaks, canoes, and carpools, and your assistance with distributing this event description and printing and posting the color, PDF version of the WIRT website-linked Seventh Panhandle Paddle Flyer.

#No2ndBridge Talk

6 to 8 pm Thursday, September 22

Gardenia Center, Sandpoint

At this informal discussion, participants can exchange issue information, expand knowledge, and brainstorm strategies and tactics for creatively engaging and catalyzing further community resistance and regulatory and legal recourse to BNSF’s Sandpoint Junction Connector project and railroad infrastructure, pollution, and risks in the Lake Pend Oreille area and beyond, which activists have denounced and challenged during each of the Panhandle Paddles [1-5].  Please bring ideas about campaign organizing and railroad monitoring and protesting, and gather at 6 pm on Thursday, September 22, at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint.  During and after the Thursday and Saturday meetings, we plan to broaden coalitions and camaraderie among activists, while continuing conversations and enjoying music outside nearby pubs.

Direct Action Training

2 to 5 pm Saturday, September 24

Gardenia Center, Sandpoint

Regional climate and environmental activists and water protectors will provide several, interactive, training workshops, through talks and videos sharing frontline skills, stories, and insights.  Advocating grassroots, direct actions at the sites of environmental destruction, more than participation in expensive, ineffective, legal systems and other government processes, trainers will offer their expertise through three one-hour presentation and practice sessions on topics such as knowing your rights, strategizing and tactical thinking, affinity group dynamics, target selection and scouting, action design, roles, and documentation, media communications, police interactions, de-escalation, security, safety, and self-defense,  and jail solidarity.  The number, topics, and lengths of training sessions have varied over the years, chosen by and adapted to rural participants and supporting various ecological and social justice movements within current, U.S., political contexts.  Prior speakers have given advice on road and railroad actions, digital security, pipeline blockades, grand jury resistance, know-your-rights, and the previously mentioned subjects.  Organizers holding these trainings anticipate reciprocally learning and strengthening the volunteer activism gaining momentum in the Idaho Panhandle.  We encourage everyone who plans to attend to RSVP in advance and request particular topics and further logistical information.  Join WIRT and guests anytime between 2 and 5 pm on Saturday, September 24, at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint.

Panhandle Paddle

10 am to 12 pm Sunday, September 25

City and Dog Beach Parks, Sandpoint

For a seventh year, WIRT and allied activists are bringing their boats, bodies, and bravery to two locations, for on- and off-shore protests of Northwest coal, oil, and tar sands trains, terminals, and derailments and north Idaho, railroad bridge and track expansion.  To accommodate participants who are renting single or double kayaks, paddleboards, or other manual watercraft from Sandpoint businesses that open at 9 am, activists are meeting an hour later, at 10 am on Sunday, September 25.  Near the south boat ramp at City Beach Park in Sandpoint, we will launch a flotilla on Lake Pend Oreille, departing after participants arrive by land and water, to voyage around present and proposed railroad bridge sites.  By about 11 am on Sunday, another rally will converge after paddlers reach Dog Beach Park south of Sandpoint.  Bring large, attractive banners and signs, visible to observers at great distances, and respond to WIRT with your boat rental intentions and mobility needs, so we can reserve and cover the costs of watercraft, and arrange transportation for folks who cannot walk to Dog Beach Park. Continue reading

Sixth Kalispel Remember the Water Canoe Journey

Kalispel Canoe Journey 8-5-21On Tuesday, August 2, through Saturday, August 7, Kalispel and regional tribal members and the River Warrior Society are holding the annual Remember the Water canoe journey [1].  The paddle usually voyages between Qpqpe (Sandpoint, Idaho) and the Qlispe (Kalispel) Tribal Powwow Grounds, during the days before and beginning the yearly Kalispel Powwow and around the time of the Festival at Sandpoint music concerts.  Families and friends are again paddling over 35 miles in traditional, dugout, wooden and sturgeon nose canoes, through their home lands and waters in the tributaries, lake, and river of the Pend Oreille watershed.  While oil and gas pipeline expansions and fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails infrastructure and transportation impose and risk further harms to indigenous people and places across Turtle Island (North America), Native neighbors continue to revive, uphold, and practice their ancient cultures and sustainable ways, through admirable endeavors like this canoe journey and culminating powwow.

Paddle organizers encourage observers and participants to share this joyful cultural resurgence at various route locations.  Like during previous years, and as depicted in linked photos and articles about prior journeys, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activists and area groups plan to welcome the paddlers at Sandpoint, during their arrival on Wednesday evening and departure on Thursday morning, August 3 and 4 [2-11].  The canoe journey tentatively begins with a Tuesday evening, August 2, meeting at the Kalispel Powwow Grounds, initially launches on the Pack River on Wednesday, August 4, and re-starts from Sandpoint City Beach Park on Thursday morning, August 5, ultimately reaching its destination of the Kalispel Village on Saturday, August 7.  Please see the enclosed itinerary, join WIRT in supporting this adventure, and contact Nathan Piengkham via facebook and/or respond to WIRT, for further information, logistics, and ways to help. Continue reading

Stop Oil Trains 2022

Stop Oil Trains 2022 FlyerJuly 8-10 annual actions remember the Lac-Mégantic, Mosier, & Custer disasters

Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and allied activists invite everyone to participate in ninth annual, Stop Oil Trains direct actions and a training workshop in north Idaho, on Friday, July 8, through Sunday, July 10.  Five events commemorate the 47 lives lost and downtowns devastated by oil train derailments, spills, explosions, and fires in the lakeside village of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013, the Columbia River Gorge town of Mosier, Oregon, on June 3, 2016, and the northwestern hamlet of Custer, Washington, on December 22, 2020.  These demonstrations also support pipeline-on-rails resistance across the Northwest and in trackside and pipeline corridor communities and environments threatened and polluted by dangerous oil and its disasters.

Spotlight Message Projection

Friday & Saturday, July 8 & 9, 10 pm, Downtown Sandpoint

As the sun sets, WIRT and allied organizers will provide brief, light projection displays of social and climate justice messages on tall buildings in downtown Sandpoint, Idaho.  Meet after 10 pm on Friday and Saturday, July 8 and 9, wherever you see this light show, for discussions among activists and curious passersby, about Northwest oil train and terminal and gas pipeline expansion issues.

Resistance Outreach

Saturday, July 9, 9 am to 1 pm, near Farmin Park, Sandpoint

Gather with volunteer activists between 9 am and 1 pm on Saturday, July 9, at the WIRT outreach table at the corner of Fourth and Oak Streets near Farmin Park, during the Farmers Market at Sandpoint, Idaho.  We plan to talk with residents and visitors of the one-mile-wide, north Idaho “bomb train blast zone,” offer updates on Northwest oil and coal trains and infrastructure and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s second railroad bridges, and provide #No2ndBridge and other petitions, letters, flyers, and brochures [1-3].

Oil Trains Protest

Saturday, July 9, 1 pm, Farmin to City Beach Parks, Sandpoint

At 1 pm on Saturday, July 9, bring your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, protest signs, and creative spirit, to show community opposition to dangerous crude oil conduits to refineries and export facilities: Oil trains and railroad infrastructure, like the present and proposed, BNSF rail bridges.  Starting from the Farmin Park area, we will walk with banners and signs objecting to the Northwest pipeline-on-wheels and railroad expansion, through downtown Sandpoint to City Beach Park.  At these public march origin and destination places, we will share reflections and stories about the isolated vulnerability of rural, rail corridor communities to oil train and derailment catastrophes and industry invasions of local environments and economies.

Train Watch Workshop

Sunday, July 10, 4 pm, Gardenia Center, Sandpoint

For the annual training sessions on regional coal, oil, and tar sands trainspotting, David Perk of 350 Seattle will present methods for trackside observing, documenting, and reporting Northwest fossil fuels train traffic, via photos, videos, and social media.  He will discuss rail routes from the plains to the coast, train descriptors, refinery and receiving facilities, rail system operations, stopovers, and transit times, and train watch motivations and resources.  Please RSVP to WIRT for required registration to join this teleconferenced conversation with David generously sharing images, skills, and insights, beginning at 4 pm on Sunday, July 10, via Zoom and at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint, Idaho.  WIRT needs more train monitors along the tracks of the north Idaho, fossil fuels frontline, to document all westbound, unit trains of cars hauling Powder River Basin coal, Bakken crude oil, and Canadian tar sands.

Issue Background Continue reading

WIRT Comments on Setbacks along Sand Creek

WIRT Comments on Sand Creek Setbacks 3-16-22I offer this testimony and these comments on behalf of 3,200-plus members, friends, and supporters of the regional climate activist collective Wild Idaho Rising Tide or WIRT, based for six years in downtown Sandpoint, Idaho, for the public record of the Wednesday, March 16, 2022, Sandpoint City Council regular meeting and public hearing concerning the city decision whether to amend current city code that mandates a water-protective, 25-foot, vegetative buffer along the banks of Sand Creek from downtown to the Highways 95 and 200 bridge.  City staff members have proposed this change to accommodate construction of various types of non-building structures extending into and over Sand Creek below its summer high-pool water mark, specifically a public plaza over a grassy area between the waterway and Gunning’s Alley, also called Farmin’s Landing, on the west side.

Ironically, the city originally purchased this creekside property to create ground depression swales of plants that filter and catch storm water sediment and contamination, an overdue component of urban infrastructure that WIRT encourages the city to build.  But now, the city seems intent on constructing more artificial, impervious surfaces in the center of a small town already walled off from Idaho’s largest, deepest lake, Pend Oreille, by the flood-raised, BNSF Railway line, an elevated freeway, private condominiums, and a hotel complex, even while the erratic weather, floods, and wildfires of climate chaos threaten environmental disasters and financial losses.

Within the last 15 years, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its economic devastation of small enterprises, downtown businesses have endured destruction of the natural amenities that attract residents and visitors to Sandpoint, imposed by construction of the railroad-parallel, U.S. Highway 95 byway averting the city core, massive fires and demolition of historic district buildings, large tree removals and street and sidewalk reconstruction during numerous shoulder seasons, and WIRT court-challenged expansion of railroad tracks and bridges through recreation waters and the critical habitat of an endangered fish species.  (Continue reading these comments in the linked PDF letter.)

WIRT Comments on Sand Creek Setbacks 3-16-22

Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest Report

Thanks to everyone who attempted and/or considered participation in the Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest on Saturday, February 1 [1, 2]!  Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), #No2ndBridge, and regional climate activists hosted a brief, information-sharing rally and carpool at 10 am at the City Beach Park pavilion in Sandpoint, and a planned march at 11 am from the Gateway Visitors Center in Bonners Ferry, with a return to Sandpoint by 1 pm.  The gatherings in Bonner and Boundary counties raised resistance to fossil fuels and hazardous materials train pollution and risks to public and environmental health and safety, and to ongoing railroad disasters and infrastructure expansions increasing these threats, such as the rockslide derailment, 2,000-gallon diesel leak, and removal of two Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway locomotives in the Kootenai River, and BNSF proposals to double tracks and rail bridges across Sandpoint, Sand Creek, and almost one mile over Lake Pend Oreille.  On BNSF’s Bakken crude oil pipeline-on-rails route across western Montana and north Idaho, both the Kootenai River wreck and the July 1989, tank cars spill of 20,000-plus gallons of still residual diesel into Whitefish Lake serve as warnings that confirm that ALL trains impose inherent hazards along and over water bodies [3].

WIRT activists appreciate Rising Tide North America friends, who shared the WIRT media release about the event on their website, and Sandpoint Reader staff, who printed the protest alert (without “Info:”) in the event-ful calendar on the center pages of the January 30, 2020 issue [4, 5].  WIRT activists are also grateful for Keokee Publishing administrators, who listed the event among Civic Happenings in Sandpoint, one of the Sandpoint Online calendars, and for Kootenai Valley Times editors, who also published our full event announcement and Kootenai River railroad incident coverage [6, 7].  This online news outlet in Bonners Ferry additionally linked the article through a facebook post that received a handful of shares and over 100 mostly derogatory comments [8].

During the week before the protest, besides posting event flyers and sending notices by email, website, facebook, and radio program, WIRT contacted a few core activists and almost 200 Sandpoint and Spokane friends.  We started conversations with everyone who had expressed interest in the event, to explore responses and ideas and to organize participation and carpools in advance, among activists from the Bonners Ferry, Sandpoint, Spokane, and Moscow areas.  Seeking to ensure that at least a few people, especially those with current, transportation obstacles, show up at both protest locations, we offered to provide gas funds for carpoolers who need them, despite WIRT’s poverty.

On Saturday morning, February 1, Sandpoint experienced intense, southwest winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour (mph) and gusts reaching 45 mph, while Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest participants gathered inside the open, City Beach Park, picnic pavilion beside Lake Pend Oreille [9].  Known as “snow eaters,” these warm, dry, fast-moving, Chinook winds could vaporize a foot of snow within hours, before it had a chance to melt [10].  Under such breezy conditions, WIRT activists could not display the unwieldy signs and large banners that we brought for the event.  Potential participants either chose not to attend, due to the high wind advisory, or may have driven nearby without noticing the rally or getting out of the dozen vehicles that we saw circle past the pavilion.  For an hour, only bicyclists and pedestrians without vehicles braved the weather and waited against the ferocious winds, for others to arrive at the park. Continue reading

Fossil Fuels Train Pollution Protest

On Saturday, February 1, please join Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) climate activists, members, friends, supporters, and allies for rallies and marches in Bonner and Boundary counties, objecting to fossil fuels and hazardous materials train pollution and risks to public and environmental health and safety, and to railroad infrastructure expansions and ongoing incidents increasing these threats, such as the rockslide derailment of two Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway, mixed freight train locomotives onto the banks and submerged and leaking at least 2,100 gallons of diesel fuel and engine oil into the Kootenai River near Moyie Springs, north Idaho, since January 1, 2020.

To commemorate the one-month anniversary of this major environmental disaster, which prompted multiple, emergency response agencies to rescue both a two-person, BNSF crew and a remote, forested, international river, we are gathering at 10 am around the City Beach Park pavilion in Sandpoint, Idaho, for a brief, information sharing rally.  Carpooling to the Gateway Visitors Center in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, near the city parking lot off U.S. Highway 2 and 95, we are marching at 11 am and returning to Sandpoint by 1 pm, to accommodate participants attending a later event.

Respond early with your intentions to participate in this protest, bring your friends, family, relevant signs and banners, and warm, winter and rain gear, and contact us if you can assist with sign creation, event transportation, #No2ndBridge petition signatures, and attorney recruitment for a legal challenge insisting on a full, #No2ndBridge, environmental impact study and statement.  We are demanding that government agencies enforce the remedial and preventative measures described in this announcement, as we express our resistance to further ecosystem and economic devastation imposed on rural communities, either through disaster or design, by the private profiteers of inherently perilous, fossil fuels pipelines-on-rails.  Frontline, WIRT activists and allies will not relent in opposing BNSF bridge and track expansion across Sandpoint, Sand Creek, and almost one mile over Lake Pend Oreille.

Sign the Petition to Deny and Revoke Permits for the BNSF Sandpoint Junction Connector Project, and see the BNSF Kootenai River Wreck and Spill facebook album for almost 70 photos, links to nine previously posted, WIRT articles, and forthcoming updates on fisheries impacts, spill “cleanup,” and engine removal, describing the Kootenai River derailment situation closely scrutinized by WIRT  [1, 2].  Local and industry news outlets printed some of the last WIRT newsletter, and we are working on media releases and comments to agencies, offering the dissenting side of this catastrophe story [3, 4].

Regional Fossil Fuels & Hazardous Materials Trains

Across the Idaho Panhandle, BNSF hauls about six each, loaded and residually empty, Powder River Basin coal and Bakken crude oil unit trains every day; Union Pacific carries three-plus Canadian tar sands and Bakken oil unit trains per week; and both pull numerous, fossil fuels and hazardous materials tank cars, intermixed with other freight, daily between interior, hydrocarbon extraction fields and West Coast refineries, power plants, and crude export terminals.  Just one derailment of any of these trains could devastate entire communities and watersheds with deadly, explosive, fiery, and inhalation hazard chemicals and toxic cargo spills in the rugged river canyons of north Idaho and western Montana, vulnerable to floods, avalanches, landslides, and wildfires.  First responders trained and funded by the perpetrators of anticipated derailments attempt to protect rail line communities from the harms of such tragedies, but they cannot prevent them with emergency preparation.  Despite litigation to enforce better railroad procedures, hundreds of pounds of coal dust fly off uncovered coal cars every day, into the regional river sources of socioeconomic vitality.

A Decade of Idaho & Montana Derailments Continue reading

BNSF Locomotives in River, USCAN & WIRT Meetings, #No2ndBridge Petition, Frontline Support

January 1 to 13, Moyie Springs: BNSF Locomotives in Kootenai River

Since late on Wednesday, New Year’s Day, north Idahoans and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) have been enduring a major environmental disaster: Two rockslide-derailed, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway locomotives in the Kootenai River, one nose-down on the bank and one submerged and leaking at least 2,100 gallons of diesel fuel toward a Kootenai Tribe fish restoration hatchery, 2.5 miles downstream, and into the critical habitat of three endangered species (sturgeon, burbot, and bull trout) and private and municipal water sources.  Industry-friendly, mainstream media have been repeating and embellishing hero stories about multiple emergency response agencies rescuing the trapped, almost drowned, two-person, BNSF crew with a county sheriff boat, two hours after a BNSF co-worker climbed down the now fully sunk, front engine and sledge-hammered and kicked its window open.  But is potential and proven emergency preparedness truly heroic when its enables the further ecosystem and economic devastation imposed on rural communities by private profiteers’ inherently perilous, fossil-fueled railroads?

Early on January 2, hazardous materials and other crews placed oil containment booms and shut down water intake pipes, as precautionary measures at the Kootenai Tribe’s Twin Rivers Hatchery on the Moyie-Kootenai rivers confluence.  On Friday, January 3, Boundary County declared a state of emergency and closed the Kootenai River for a week, and then extended the emergency order until February 8 on Monday, January 6, banning all motorized, public boat traffic from the Montana border eight miles upstream of the derailment, to Bonners Ferry eight miles down-current.  Belatedly on January 4, Boundary County issued a water quality advisory cautioning residents against direct, river water use during derailment “clean-up” operations.  Officials say that the diesel-polluted water is not flammable and does not endanger public health, safety, and drinking water supplies.

Regulating and documenting derailment impacts, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has concluded its incident oversight, calling the spill “minor,” although divers recovered only water from the BNSF locomotive fuel tank and crank case in the river last week, which together held between 2,100 and 5,200 gallons.  Spokane television news reporters earlier noticed and videoed oily sheens on the river in Bonners Ferry, among 6,200-plus feet of containment boom placed in the waterway.  But the EPA, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, and Boundary County are testing water every 24 hours in six places, and allowing BNSF employees and contractors to conduct river water sampling for pollution, an activity obviously conflicted by railroad avoidance of fines and legal challenges, not to mention its operation and profit motives that risk further catastrophes.

Do you remember regional citizens’ concerns, during the initial, 2010-11 years of resistance to tar sands mining and refining megaloads on U.S. Highway 12, about a megaload tumbling into the wild and scenic Lochsa and Clearwater rivers and Nez Perce Reservation waters?  Predictably, it has happened (again!) in north Idaho, except the megaload is one of hundreds of diesel-spewing, half-million-pound locomotives that daily rampage the shores of three Columbia River basin watersheds — the Kootenai, Pend Oreille, and Spokane — hauling loads as benign as lumber and grain and as deadly as Bakken crude, Canadian tar sands, and other hazardous substances.  The same fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails perpetrator that WIRT and #No2ndBridge activists and recently issue-mute, bigger green allies have opposed for its bridge and track expansion over Lake Pend Oreille and Sandpoint, BNSF still has not and perhaps cannot carefully remove its submerged locomotive from the Kootenai River.  Without contingency plans for similar, future predicaments, the corporate interloper may abandon its megaload until spring and drag it across the river to sand bars, to dismantle and float it downstream for scrap.  Potentially culpable for worker endangerment, river contamination, and indigenous, rare fisheries ruin, BNSF could have prevented or alerted the derailed train operators of the rockslide that caused the wreck, if it had replaced a rock barrier and warning fence in the derailment area, which it removed during rail corridor maintenance several years earlier.

While reviewing, writing, and sharing daily media and WIRT activist articles, insights, and site visit photos during the last few weeks, WIRT has been overwhelmed by grief, outrage, and the voluminous but fact-vacuous, media information about this Kootenai River derailment.  BNSF assumes that the mostly complicit Panhandle inhabitants who bear the ongoing pollution and disaster risks of this multi-billion-dollar business will not ask questions or challenge its false narratives or remember its snafus that increasingly offer evidence unfavorable to its Northwest infrastructure and operations expansions.  But WIRT is determined to continue our investigation of this instance of inevitable derailments, and to insist that local, state, and federal agencies protect the public trust and watersheds by collecting and analyzing independent data on water quality degraded by the railroad industry.  Please contact us if you can assist with ground-truthing the environmental impacts of this corporate crime scene in a canyon constrained by steep cliffs, forested private lands, and the BNSF-requested, extended river closure.  We also intend to gather and condense our continuing facebook posts about this situation into an emailed and website-shared newsletter.  For now, we have linked those posts and their embedded news articles through this ever-expanding photo compilation:

BNSF Kootenai River Wreck and Spill 1-1-20, Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook album Continue reading

Winter Solstice Thanks & Requests, Sandpoint Meeting, #No2ndBridge Attorney & Petition, Climate Strike Report, & More

Winter Solstice Thanks & Requests

As Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) activists, board members, friends, contributors, and allies celebrate later sunsets since December 11, Winter Solstice at 8:19 pm PST on Saturday, December 21, and daylight growing another eight hours by Summer Solstice, we offer our gratitude for your participation and support during 2019, and share our hopes, dreams, and plans for the emerging, solar, new year [1, 2]. During the last nine years, volunteer, WIRT activists have urgently and actively worked to counter the current climate crisis, always asking everyone to engage their courage and dedication, and refusing to lose faith in the proven potential of local communities and governments to advance Northwest climate solutions.  Continuing vigilant resistance on the north Idaho, fossil fuels, pipeline-on-rails, and #No2ndBridge frontlines for a tenth year, we request your assistance with planning actions at WIRT meetings (1), participating in protests and demonstrations (2, 3), monitoring and documenting coal, oil, and tar sands trains and railroad infrastructure construction  (4), signing and delivering the #No2ndBridge petition (5), writing letters to regional editors and industries (6), recruiting an attorney (7), and contributing toward group expenses (8).

1) Sandpoint Action Planning Meeting

Grassroots, WIRT organizers invite your involvement in arranging upcoming presentations, training workshops, demonstrations, outreach, and #No2ndBridge litigation. We urge you to participate in WIRT, potluck gatherings, enjoy climate action documentaries, discuss tactics and strategies, and offer your unique advice and assistance, as we together relentlessly confront the fossil fuel causes of climate chaos, through direct actions and frontline solutions [3].  The WIRT climate activist collective welcomes opportunities to talk with you and the regional, environmental and indigenous community about critical issues.  Join activity planning conversations on the first and third Thursdays (now instead of Wednesdays) of every month, starting at 6 pm (not the usual 7 pm) on Thursday, December 19, at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint.  Due to winter conditions, WIRT will probably not hold monthly, Moscow meetings during January and February 2020, at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street.  Meanwhile, please check WIRT website and especially facebook pages for informative posts and articles, and listen to WIRT’s soon resumed, weekly, Climate Justice Forum radio program, for updates about ongoing and emerging, Northwest and continent-wide, fossil fuels invasions and protests.

2) Climate Strike & #No2ndBridge Protest Report

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Climate Strike and Army Corps Permit Protest on Friday, December 6, at Serenity Lee Trail and Dog Beach Park in Sandpoint, Idaho [4, 5]! WIRT volunteers also offer our appreciation to the Sandpoint Reader and Sandpoint Online, for their editing and posting of public announcements of the demonstration, listed in print and website events calendars [6].  The community event protested Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s proposed Sandpoint Junction Connector project that has begun constructing doubled tracks and three additional railroad bridges transporting coal, oil, and hazardous materials across Lake Pend Oreille, Sand Creek, and downtown Sandpoint.  This industrial invasion has received all of its required approvals, except perhaps one each from Bonner County and the City of Sandpoint, including federal permits for bridge building, from the U.S. Coast Guard on September 5, and for dredging and filling wetlands and shorelines, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on November 20.  Please see the WIRT facebook page for a full description and photos of WIRT activists registering the rally without response on the U.S. Climate Strike website and map, resisting BNSF’s ongoing, regional pollution, derailment, and climate risks and impacts to Idaho panhandle towns, awaiting participant input among noisy heavy equipment in the dusty construction zone, and encountering and documenting a westbound, unit, “bomb” train of black, oil tanker cars with one rear, BNSF locomotive 6668, near the outlet of the large, formerly forested wetland below the present, Sand Creek rail bridge [7, 8].

3) Spotlighting Demonstrations

WIRT launched its first, public spotlighting on Saturday evening, November 30, while crowds gathered outside the Panida Theater in downtown Sandpoint, for the annual Giving Thanks concert headlined by native north Idahoans the Shook Twins [9, 10]. From Spokane activists of the Occupy movement, with years of projecting experience and fondly remembered forays in Spokane, Boise, Moscow, Sandpoint, and throughout the inland Northwest, we acquired one of two sets of spotlighting equipment on August 30: a theater light, sawhorse, wagon, generator, and especially 13 gobos (graphic object before optics), mostly pertaining to coal and oil train and other fossil fuels resistance and related topics and group logos [11].  WIRT plans to continue to honor their amazing legacy with spotlighting across north Idaho and the region.  Although the equipment is heavy and cumbersome, and requires two people to transport and set up the tubular light on its stand, we welcome invitations from the activist community to shine messages and images about environmental, social justice, human rights, and diverse issues, to assist your outreach in a highly visible, targeted, fun way.  Passersby, who see the displays on tall buildings and other places (even on megaloads!) during weekend and special event nights, generally respond curiously and positively.  WIRT spotlight organizers would also gratefully accept donations supporting our purchases of the $300 spotlight equipment and the $40 ordered or handmade gobos on any topics you choose.

4) Train & #No2ndBridge Watches

Please consider joining the active, north Idaho, Portland-Vancouver, Seattle, and Northwest network of trainspotting partners, who benefit from WIRT’s monitoring, photographing, and public facebook-posting of westbound, BNSF, unit coal and oil trains, for the #IDoiltrainwatch and #WAoiltrainwatch and down-track co-workers. Mid-December 2019 marks four years of continuous, WIRT presence and reports from the downtown Sandpoint and north Idaho, fossil fuels frontline.  We especially encourage detailed documentation of BNSF, #No2ndBridge construction sites near the Bridge Street, Sand Creek, and Lake Pend Oreille rail bridges.  Winds and precipitation around the railroad easement and the almost mile-long bridge over Idaho’s largest, deepest lake push bulldozed sand, gravel, and train-spewed coal dust into creek and lake bed, pollution deposits, threatened bull trout critical habitat, and regional drinking water, into which BNSF plans to drive 1000-plus piles for two temporary, construction spans and three permanent, parallel, second (and likely later third) rail bridges, accommodating riskier, more derailment-vulnerable, bi-directional train traffic. Continue reading

Climate Strike & USACE Permit Protest

In September 2019, Rising Tide North America (RTNA) joined Shut Down DC and disrupted the morning commute in the nation’s capital.  RTNA and allies then blockaded major banks funding oil, gas, and coal, created a two-block, street mural that showed a livable world, and shut down San Francisco’s financial district.  Both of those demonstrations included hundreds of people stepping up to take action on a massive scale.  Since then, inspiring, Oregon groups fighting pipelines have blocked the Port of Vancouver and occupied the governor’s office [1].

On Friday, December 6, people around the continent are organizing alongside the next youth climate strike, as an inflection point for other large, coordinated actions.  In solidarity with student strikers and communities everywhere struggling against fossil fuels extraction, transportation, and production, we ask you to help us protest business-as-usual on the Idaho Panhandle frontline, where Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway received its last, needed, federal permit, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on November 20, for filling wetlands and constructing three additional railroad bridges and doubled tracks conveying coal, oil, and hazardous materials across Lake Pend Oreille, Sand Creek, and downtown Sandpoint, Idaho [2]. Continue reading