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MailTribune.com
  • Anti-clearcut ads draw opposing reactions from Oregon airports

    Eugene field accepts the ad and has received no complaints; Portland airport rejects it
  • The postcard-like advertisement displayed at the Eugene Airport shows a side of the Oregon landscape that does not normally greet arriving visitors. It features a large slope in the Coast Range that has been completely logged and says: "Welcome to Oregon: Home of the Clearcut." The ad, which a local airport official believes ...
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  • The postcard-like advertisement displayed at the Eugene Airport shows a side of the Oregon landscape that does not normally greet arriving visitors. It features a large slope in the Coast Range that has been completely logged and says: "Welcome to Oregon: Home of the Clearcut." The ad, which a local airport official believes is the first political advertisement that has been displayed there, had flown under the radar since it went up about three weeks ago.
    Until now.
    When Portland International Airport rejected the same ad, based on what officials described as its political nature, both airports found themselves thrust into the spotlight.
    Oregon Wild, one of the conservation groups paying for the ad, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon demanded Thursday that the Port of Portland, which operates the state's largest airport, display it.
    The advertisement is part of a statewide campaign that is funded by Oregon Wild , the Audubon Society of Portland and others and intended to raise awareness of proposals in Congress to increase logging in federally managed Western Oregon forests.
    Bob Sallinger, conservation director of the Audubon Society of Portland, said in a statement the ads are aimed "at starting a public debate over the gap between our green reputation and the reality of what some politicians are proposing." The campaign also includes a website and roadside billboards.
    The ad is a departure from the advertisements typically featured at the state's two largest airports — tourism-friendly promotions of outdoor recreation, fine dining and shopping. And each airport has taken a different approach in how they handle it.
    The ad went up in the baggage claim area of the Eugene Airport on Aug. 28 and will remain there for two months. The city-owned airport was paid $765 for it.
    Deputy Airport Director Cathryn Stephens said the city attorney's office advised her to accept the ad on the basis of a 2011 Oregon Court of Appeals ruling. The court found that the policy of Portland area transit operator TriMet to accept only commercial ads violated the First Amendment. The case is pending before the Oregon Supreme Court, according to The Associated Press.
    The rejected ad in that case also had an environmental bent, depicting three in-stream salmon facing a wall of electrical sockets.
    Stephens said this is believed to be the first political advertisement displayed at the Eugene Airport, and she's received no public comments about it so far.
    The Port of Portland, however, instructed its advertising agency, Alliance Advertising, to reject the clearcutting ad after researching and concluding that federal and state law and the port's rules allow it to restrict ads of a political or religious nature, said Martha Richmond, the port's chief spokeswoman.
    Richmond said the port's and transit district's treatment of the issue are different in part because the airport provides areas for religious and political groups to assemble and share their message if they secure a permit and follow certain rules.
    "To that end we believe the ... rules are on solid footing," she said.
    Oregon Wild and the ACLU disagree.
    "The Port of Portland refuses to allow advertising they conclude is too controversial or political, and that is exactly the type of content-based restriction our constitutional free speech protections are designed to prevent," said David Fidanque, the ACLU's executive director.
    Sean Stevens, Oregon Wild's executive director, said in the statement that the airport "cannot play favorites by rejecting advertising from conservationists who oppose clearcutting simply because it makes the logging industry and some politicians uncomfortable."
    The groups didn't return phone messages seeking additional comment Thursday.
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