Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands
Erik Fernandez, Oregon Wild
(503) 283-6343, ext. 202
Pete Wallstrom, Momentum River Expeditions
Portland, Oregon – A coalition of Oregon conservation organizations is applauding efforts by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to re-introduce a package of protections for several natural areas in Oregon. Protection for the Molalla River, Oregon Caves, and other areas have been strongly supported by a broad spectrum of Oregonians for years, from local elected officials to fishing guides to rafting companies.
The Oregon Treasures legislation includes areas that have been fully-vetted, and have been introduced in at least one previous congress. Included in the package are:
Devil’s Staircase: Some 30,500 acres of rare, remaining Coast Range old-growth forest with colossal stands of Douglas fir, hemlock and cedar near the legendary Devil’s Staircase waterfall would be protected as Wilderness.
Mollala River: A recreational hotspot south of Portland and the source of drinking water for the communities of Molalla and Canby, this 21-mile stretch of the Mollala River in Clackamas County would be protected with a Wild and Scenic River designation.
Rogue River: The Wild Rogue proposal includes 93 miles of Wild and Scenic River designations and 60,000 acres of Wilderness protection for the rugged canyons and spectacular whitewater of the lower Rogue River.
Oregon Caves: The Oregon Caves National Monument in Josephine County would be expanded from the current 480 acres to 4,070 acres to head off threats from grazing, and include more of the area’s big trees and old-growth forest while continuing to allow hunting.
Chetco River: Legislation will enhance the existing Wild and Scenic River designation for this sparkling Curry County waterway to head off threats from destructive mining.
Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven: Along the banks of the John Day River in Jefferson County, these areas have long been identified as having outstanding Wilderness attributes, including significant biological diversity and wildlife habitat.
These Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River proposals have the broad support of thousands of Oregonians and citizens’ groups. The Wild Rogue Alliance represents over 100 southern Oregon businesses, along with fishing and conservation groups, while the Molalla River Alliance consists of local property owners, the city of Molalla, and even the local police department.
Currently only four percent of Oregon is protected as Wilderness, the “gold standard” for public lands protection, compared with 10% in Washington, 15% in California, and eight percent in Idaho. “Oregon has a very green reputation, one we don’t live up to very well when it comes to protecting our natural treasures. This legislation is an important step in the right direction in correcting that imbalance,” said Oregon Wild Wilderness Coordinator Erik Fernandez.
With the health of the lower Rogue Valley’s economy in mind, Pete Wallstrom of Momentum River Expeditions, a commercial rafting company and guide service said, “Expanding safeguards for the Wild Rogue would not only help protect our local environment, but also our local recreation and tourism economy for generations to come. The Rogue River is a nationally-recognized treasure that lures people to the area on name and reputation alone. It is one of the central engines of a tourism and recreation economy in southern Oregon that continues to grow and provide sustainable long-term jobs and opportunities.”
Noting the classic, wild character of the Devil’s Staircase area, Cascadia Wildlands Campaign Director Josh Laughlin said, “The thundering waterfalls of the Devil’s Staircase, towering old-growth forests, rugged terrain, and myriad of unique species are part of what make Oregon so special. Long overdue for Wilderness protection, it is exciting to see Devil's Staircase wilderness legislation once again moving through the process to protect it forever."