Save Our Summers
Records, 1975-2004 (bulk 1990-2002)
Agricultural burning in the Palouse region of Washington State (undated photograph, circa 1995-2005)
Acquisition And Processing Information
The records of Save Our Summers (SOS) were donated to the Washington State University Libraries by Patti Gora in 2008 (MS 2008-21). The collection was processed by Lee Ann Powell in 2010.
Number of containers: 28
Linear feet of shelf space: 15
Save Our Summers (SOS), a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, was organized in 1995 to raise public awareness about the environmental and health hazards of the agricultural practice of grass burning, and to strengthen regulations to protect public health and air quality. SOS was originally formed in response to practices in Spokane County, WA, and subsequently expanded its area of concern to include wheat stubble burning in the Palouse region.
Patricia Hoffman, a retired veterinarian, founded this nonprofit volunteer organization in Spokane. SOS recruited volunteers through membership drives, advertisements in local newspapers, and public meetings. Many members and their families had personally experienced health problems linked to smoke and emissions from agricultural burning. SOS challenged government agencies and farmers to more effectively regulate, reduce, and halt the practice. SOS pursued these goals by holding meetings, writing letters, lobbying government officials, circulating petitions, distributing educational literature, and initiating legal action.
At about the same time, the Clean Air Coalition (CAC) organized separately in Sandpoint, ID, to address similar agricultural burning on the Rathdrum prairie. The two groups made attempts to work together, but because most of the local organizing happened at neighborhood meetings, the geographical separation was problematic. Another group, Safe Air For Everyone (SAFE), was organized in 2001 following some of the worst burns on the Rathdrum prairie. SOS and SAFE worked cooperatively, using the court system in their efforts to end agricultural burning in the region.
SOS filed lawsuits challenging government actions and public policies in Washington and Idaho. In 1999, the group initiated three lawsuits against Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE), and in 2000 filed suit against two State of Idaho departments, Agriculture and Environmental Quality.
SOS filed its first case in Thurston County (WA) Superior Court, the jurisdiction in which the Washington DOE headquarters is located, on March 19, 1999. SOS claimed that DOE had violated the state Clean Air Act by making a voluntary agreement in the form of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) to reduce pollution from field burning. SOS also alleged that the agency violated state rulemaking requirements and failed to fully consider the human and environmental health consequences of this agreement. Judge Richard Hicks observed that he failed to see how an agreement that moved growers in the direction of less burning was harmful. The courts also ruled that since the MOU between DOE and WAWG was a voluntary agreement, failure to reach the goals stated in the MOU were not punishable offenses.
The second suit was filed in Thurston County Superior Court on August 11, 1999. SOS alleged that DOE was in violation of the state Open Records Act for failing to disclose key documents relevant to reduction of agricultural burning. Specifically at issue was a report by the WAWG about their public relations plan to garner support for their deal with DOE. DOE was cleared of wrongdoing, but the judge ruled that SOS was correct in filing the suit and ordered DOE to pay SOS's court costs and legal fees. The judge also directed SOS and DOE to reach an agreement on any additional documents requested by SOS.
The third suit, initiated by SOS with families from Whitman County, WA and Kootenai County, ID, was filed in U.S. District Court in October 1999. They sought an immediate halt to field burning. SOS argued that DOE was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They argued that by failing to regulate the smoke generated by wheat-stubble burning, DOE was preventing access to public resources by people suffering from respiratory diseases severely aggravated by the smoke. A final ruling was delayed several times as the judge waited to hear from the U. S. Department of Justice over the question of jurisdiction in the case. Ultimately, SOS and all other parties in the suit agreed to resolution through a mediation process.
The records of Save Our Summers include administrative files, press clipping files about field burning and the group's advocacy activities, research files, and litigation files with materials related to lawsuits brought by SOS.
This collection generally retains its original order, with a few adjustments made during processing to facilitate research use. It is organized in five series:
- Series 1: Administrative files, 1995-2002. Includes meeting minutes, mailing lists, newsletters, petitions, grant applications, correspondence, and press files.
- Series 2: Research files, 1975-2004 (bulk 1990-2000). Primarily collected material, including agricultural data, articles, reports, and studies on agricultural burning practices and health effects.
- Series 3: Washington State Department of Ecology, 1989-2002. Includes records of SOS interactions with the Department of Ecology, interactions with others about the department, and collected materials about the department.
- Series 4: Litigation files, 1996-2002. Includes copies of court documents and supporting materials related to SOS litigation: correspondence, research, affidavits, exhibits, and press clippings.
- Series 5: Photographs and audiovisual media, 1992-2003. Photographs documenting agricultural burning in the Palouse region, audio recordings of hearings, and video recordings of news broadcasts, committee meetings, and documentary presentations.
Environmental protection -- Washington (State)
Environmental protection -- Idaho
Burning of land -- Health aspects -- Washington (State)
Burning of land -- Health aspects -- Idaho
Smoke -- Physiological effect -- Washington (State)
Smoke -- Physiological effect -- Idaho
Air quality management -- Washington (State)
Air quality management -- Idaho
Pressure groups -- Washington (State)
Pressure groups -- Idaho
This collection is open and available for research use. Copyright restrictions apply.
The suggested citation for the collection is:
Save Our Summers records, 1975-2004
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
Washington State University Libraries
Materials are in English.