Preliminary Guide to the Save Our Summers Records 2000-2016

Summary Information

Washington State University Libraries, Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections
Save Our Summers
Preliminary Guide to the Save Our Summers Records
Date [inclusive]
0.75 Linear feet of shelf space, 2 Boxes + Digital files
(MASC staff use): MS.2011.28, 2-13-23-6; MS.2017.22, 1-38-12-12; borndigital_MS201722
Collection materials are in English.
This collection consists of correspondence, photographs, and miscellaneous items related to Save Our Summers.

Preferred Citation

[Item description]

Preliminary Guide to the Save Our Summers Records, 2000-2016 (MS.2011.28)

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

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From the guide to the Save Our Summers Records, 1975-2004 (Collection number: Cage 749):

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.

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Scope and Content

This collection consists of correspondence, photographs, and miscellaneous items related to Save Our Summers. The collection includes paper documents and digital files (borndigital_MS201722).

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This is an unprocessed collection. Any arrangement reflects either a pre-existing order from the records' creators or previous custodians, or preliminary sorting performed by staff.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Washington State University Libraries Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections  © 2020

Terrell Library

P.O. Box 645610

Pullman, WA, 99164-5610 USA


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open and available for research use.

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply.

Acquisition Information

Marc Fleisher, president of Save Our Summers NW (Moscow, ID), donated this collection to the Washington State University Libraries on behalf of the organization in multiple installments beginning in 2011 (MS.2011.28, MS.2017.22).

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Related Materials

Related Material

Save Our Summers Records 1975-2004 (Cage 749).

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Names and Subjects

Corporate Name(s)

Subject(s) :
  • Save Our Summers -- Records and correspondence.


  • Air quality management.
  • Environmental protection.
  • Burning of land -- Health aspects.
  • Smoke -- Physiological effect.
  • Pressure groups.
  • Environmental Conditions
  • Environmental Activism

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