Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden said today’s signing into law of bipartisan public lands legislation takes several major and permanent steps forward to protect Oregon’s natural treasures for future generations to enjoy.
“Conserving our state’s iconic Devil’s Staircase, adding hundreds of miles of wild-and-scenic rivers, increasing wildfire protections and more totals up to a big win for Oregon’s recreation economy,” Wyden said after the White House signing ceremony. “This is the largest public lands package passed by Congress in a decade and I look forward to building on its gains for every corner of our state.”
Wyden has championed the designation of 1,986 miles of wild-and-scenic rivers in Oregon—more than any other member of Congress, overall, for the contiguous 48 states. Oregon has the most wild-and-scenic river designations in the contiguous United States.
Public Land and River Protections
The bipartisan public lands bill includes provisions of Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley’s Oregon Wildlands Act that do the following:
· Create the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness by designating roughly 30,000 acres of remote lands in the Oregon Coast Range.
· Permanently protect the Chetco River—a critical source of drinking water and habitat for endangered salmon in southwest Oregon—from mining and mineral extraction.
· Designate 250 miles of prime Oregon salmon- and steelhead-producing rivers and streams as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, including: about 120 miles of Rogue River tributaries; a 21-mile stretch of the Molalla River; 18 miles of Jenny Creek, which flows through the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument; 21 miles of Wasson Creek and Franklin Creek in the Siuslaw National Forest; and several important tributaries of the Elk River.
· Protect an additional 40 miles of Rogue River tributaries from mining and future dam installations.
Honor Oregon Couple’s Conservation Legacy with Steelhead Sanctuary
The bill also includes legislation introduced by Wyden, Merkley, and Rep. Peter DeFazio honoring Frank and Jeanne Moore, an Oregon couple with a distinguished legacy of conservation and habitat preservation. The Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Designation Act designates nearly 100,000 acres of Forest Service land north of the North Umpqua River as the “Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area” and ensures the river, and the surrounding area, will protect steelhead habitat and preserve recreation opportunities for generations to come. Frank Moore returned to the North Umpqua after serving in the European theatre during World War II and settled there, with Jeanne, guiding generations of fishers on the river.
Improved Wildfire Resiliency Efforts
The bipartisan public lands legislation includes a provision to improve the efforts of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to protect Crooked River Ranch, a community in central Oregon, from the catastrophic effects of wildfire. The provision would release a small number of acres near Crooked River Ranch from a wilderness study area, and includes an amendment secured by Wyden to ensure those lands are managed for forest health and wildfire resiliency.