Michael Milstein of the Portland Oregonian delves into the sickly state of the environmental movement, focusing in on the Beaver State. It’s the Death of Environmentalism quandary distilled down to the state level — and it’s a bummer.

“The environmental community seems to be at a new low for the amount of influence it has,” said Noah Greenwald, a biologist based in Portland for the Center for Biological Diversity.

Not only is the strategy and messaging a mess …

[Environmental leaders] sense that some citizens who believe in environmental protection have come to see the groups advocating it as increasingly divisive, distant and irrelevant, some say.

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“They share our values — they don’t understand our solutions, and that’s a failure of ours,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club.

… but money’s a problem too:

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The Sierra Club is now slashing programs, including staff in Portland, after exhausting much of its financial backing to battle Bush administration policies and spending millions in a failed drive to defeat the president.

“We’ve been saying, ‘Dig deep,’ and people have,” Pope said. “The reality of that now is that people are going to give us less because they have less left to give us.”

Notice that these admissions of failure are coming from people working within green groups, not just from outside critics.  Here’s more of the same:  

“When the general public thinks about environmentalism, they think conflict, they think negativity, they think using a heavy hand to get things done,” said Susan Ash of the Audubon Society of Portland.

“We’ve hurt ourselves by concentrating mostly on litigation,” she said. “But if we were not doing that the federal government would be getting away with not following their own rules and regulations. We’ve come a long way in holding our government accountable, but at the same time we’ve marginalized ourselves in the public’s eye.”

… “Many voters just assume the environment’s going to be protected no matter who’s in office,” said Steve Pedery of the Oregon Natural Resources Council. “We have done a pretty poor job explaining why these issues are relevant to people’s daily lives.”

… “We’ve looked to the courts for help with very good reason, but the consequence of that is we have become too distant from the larger public,” said Don Smith of the Siskiyou Project in Southwest Oregon. “We talk to ourselves and we scratch our heads wondering why other people aren’t listening to us.”

… “The bankrupt approach is to do what’s not working because we know how to do it,” he [Ken Rait of the Campaign for America’s Wilderness] said. “The better approach is to find new ways to go at the same issues.”

Kudos to Millstein for a fine piece of reporting that shows how grim things are looking for greens these days.