Oregon Wildlands Act Passes U.S. House of Representatives, Now Awaits President’s Signature
Measures will designate wilderness and wild and scenic rivers in Oregon including 140 miles of Wild Rogue tributaries
Zach Collier, Northwest Rafting Company, 541-399-6442
Robyn Janssen, Rogue Riverkeeper, 541-488-9831
Ashland, OR (February 26, 2019) – Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47), a public lands package that includes the Oregon Wildlands Act (S. 1548) and the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Designation Act (S. 513/H.R. 1308). The legislation would add more than 1.3 million acres of public land to the National Wilderness Preservation System, 621 miles of rivers to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It also includes dozens of other bipartisan public lands measures that would conserve some of our nation’s wildest lands and rivers. The Natural Resources Management Act passed the U.S. Senate on February 12, 2019, and now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“This legislation shows that Democrats and Republicans can work together to ensure overall better management and use of our public lands.” said Zach Collier, owner of Northwest Rafting Company. “I am appreciative of Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley as well as Reps. Greg Walden, Kurt Schrader and Peter DeFazio for working hard to secure important protections Oregonians want for federal public lands and rivers in Oregon. Our congressional delegation has worked together for many years to make this happen.”
The Oregon bills have been pending in Congress for years despite broad public support from Oregonians across the state, including hunters and anglers, business owners, veterans, community leaders, and conservationists. The bills will protect some of Oregon’s most unique lands and rivers that are treasured by Oregonians as sources of clean drinking water, their economic benefits derived from outdoor recreation, and their wilderness character that provides a unique backcountry experience.
“Protected wildlands and waterways in Oregon are good for business, critical for great craft beer, and are part of our identity as Oregonians,” said Jamie Floyd, co-founder of Ninkasi Brewing Company. “That’s why we are ecstatic about Rep. DeFazio’s long-time efforts to pass the Oregon Wildlands Act, which will forever safeguard special places like Devil’s Staircase, the Rogue, Elk, and Chetco Rivers and other Oregon treasures.”
The Oregon Wildlands Act will designate the approximately 30,000-acre Devil’s Staircase Wilderness in the Oregon Coast Range northeast of Reedsport. It will also safeguard 311 miles of rivers, including nearly 256 miles as Wild and Scenic Rivers, like the Molalla and Elk Rivers and 140 miles of tributaries to the lower Rogue River. The bill will also permanently withdraw portions of the salmon-rich Chetco River, the drinking water source for the City of Brookings, from mining claims. U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader have been steadfast champions of the protections in the reintroduced bill located within their congressional districts.
John Atkins, president of the Molalla River Alliance, added, “Congress just gave the Molalla River a big boost to become one of the nation's newest Wild and Scenic Rivers. Approval of the Oregon Wildlands Act after so many years of federal inaction is a landmark bipartisan achievement.”
The Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Act would permanently safeguard an area in the North Umpqua basin that contains some of the best wild steelhead spawning areas in the Pacific Northwest and honor Frank Moore, a World War II veteran, and his wife of over 70 years, who are both legendary stewards of the North Umpqua.
“I’m very proud to have mine and my wife’s name associated with this bill. It’s important that we prioritize our land management policy to put the resources and our wild salmon and steelhead first. That’s the least we can do to ensure these treasured lands and fish will be around for future generations,” said Frank Moore, the namesake of the legislation.
Western Oregon boasts some of the most biologically diverse and undeveloped lands in the nation. From free-flowing rivers teeming with salmon to deep ancient forests to plants seen nowhere else on the planet, the area offers people a place to relax and listen to hidden waterfalls, and raft and fish in wild rivers.
Dan Courtney, Chairman of the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians, said: “The Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians applauds the passage of the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area. Our tribe wants nothing more than a healthy Oregon, with clean rivers and a rich biodiversity of our native fish populations. This special designation will help achieve that. We thank Senators Wyden, Merkley and Representative DeFazio for all of their efforts here. We also thank Frank and Jeanne Moore for a lifetime of work to bettering our state and southern Oregon.”
Passage of these bills will be a boon to local economies. Visitors from across the country and around the globe come to explore and enjoy Western Oregon’s outstanding fishing, rafting, hiking, and other outdoor recreation opportunities. The Outdoor Industry Association recently found that outdoor recreation in Oregon generates $16.4 billion in consumer spending, 172,000 jobs, $5.1 billion in wages and salaries and $749 million in state and local tax revenue.
The protections in this bill include Wild and Scenic River and Wilderness designations that specifically allow for continued access, hunting, and fishing. Nothing in this bill curtails fighting wildfire or fuels reduction. Both measures build on a rich legacy of river and wilderness conservation in Oregon. Oregonians hope to continue building on this legacy by protecting more of Oregon’s spectacular natural treasures.
The Natural Resources Management Act (S.47) now awaits the president’s signature. Community members across Oregon are urging the president to sign the bill into law.