Package includes bills to designate wilderness and wild and scenic rivers in Oregon and to honor two legendary stewards of the North Umpqua Basin
Salem, OR (January 11, 2019) – Two Oregon conservation bills championed by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley were part of a larger public lands package introduced this week by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a senior Republican from Alaska. The bill includes the Oregon Wildlands Act (S. 1548), the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Designation Act (S. 513/H.R. 1308), the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and dozens of other bipartisan public lands bills. The package, was thwarted by a single U.S. Senator from Utah during the waning days of last Congress, despite strong support from Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and the majority of their colleagues.
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer pledged to bring the lands package up for a vote “shortly after the upper chamber returns in January,” and given that it was just reintroduced, a broad coalition is asking that Congress pass the bipartisan public lands package now.
“Oregon’s craft brewers support the Oregon Wildlands Act because it protects the outdoor spaces that make Oregon special and that provide us with the clean water we need to make world class beer,” said Ross Putnam, Co-Founder and General Manager of Base Camp Brewing. “Thanks to Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader for fighting for Oregon’s wild lands and rivers. I am hopeful that Congress follows their lead and invests in small businesses that rely on protected public lands by passing this legislation.”
The Oregon bills have been pending in Congress for years despite broad public support from Oregonians across the state, including hunters and anglers, small 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, for their economic benefits derived from outdoor recreation, and for their wilderness characteristics that provide a unique backcountry experience.
Erin Gaines, Advocacy Manager at KEEN, added, “As a Pinnacle Member of The Conservation Alliance, KEEN has dedicated significant resources for more than a decade towards efforts to protect public lands and waters here in Oregon, and across North America. Passing the Oregon Wildlands Act and the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Designation Act would be a huge victory for all Oregonians. I hope Congress sees what we see in our natural treasures, and moves quickly to pass this important package.”
The Oregon Wildlands Act was introduced by Senators Wyden and Merkley and will designate the approximately 30,000-acre Devil’s Staircase Wilderness in the Oregon Coast Range northeast of Reedsport and safeguard 303 miles of rivers, including nearly 256 miles as Wild and Scenic Rivers, including the Molalla and Elk Rivers and tributaries to the lower Rogue River. The bill will also permanently withdraw 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 also been steadfast champions of the protections in the reintroduced bill located within their congressional districts.
The legislation included in the public lands package did not include the 56,000 acres of wilderness protections for the Rogue River long championed by Representative DeFazio and Senators Wyden and Merkley or the establishment of two Recreation Areas within the Rogue and Molalla River watersheds totalling 128,000 acres. The coalition is hopeful that these important areas receive the protections they deserve.
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 River.
“Thank you very much Senator Wyden, Senator Merkley, and Representative DeFazio for working to protect some of Oregon's most vital salmon and wildlife habitat in the Umpqua River watershed for and Oregon legend and World War II hero. Passage of this bill would honor Frank and Jeanne’s legacy and their lifelong commitment to conserve salmon and steelhead. Our leaders in Congress must uphold their promise and bring this legislation to a vote now,” said Chris Daughters of the Caddis Fly Shop.
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 serpentine soil that feeds plants seen nowhere else on the planet, the area offers people a place to relax and listen to hidden waterfalls, hike within towering redwood cathedrals, and raft and fish in wild rivers.
Passage of these bills will boost the local economy. Visitors from across the country and around the globe come to explore and enjoy the area’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.
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries
NOAA Regional Administrator for West Coast Fisheries