For immediate release
June 20, 2013
Contact: Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.434.1463
Washington, DC — The US Senate has approved the creation of the 30,500-acre Devil’s Staircase Wilderness through unanimous consent, marking a major milestone in the long-running effort to protect this spectacular wild area in Oregon’s Coast Range.
The Devil’s Staircase area is named after a series of stair-step waterfalls carved into the sandstone bedrock of Wasson Creek, the main waterway which passes through the proposed wilderness. The area of spectacular old-growth forest, located approximately 10 miles northeast of Reedsport, is home to a host of endangered species, including Oregon coastal coho salmon, marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl, and provides an unparalleled experience for backcountry adventurers.
“Yesterday’s vote in the Senate was a significant hurdle, and an important benchmark on the Devil’s Staircase’s road to full Wilderness protection,” said Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands. “Generations to come will be forever grateful for the permanent protection of this unique area.”
Conservation organizations have long sought Wilderness protection for the old growth temperate rainforest of the Devils’ Staircase, dating back to the 1970s after federal logging proposals were planned in the area. Although originally included in the 1984 Oregon Wilderness package, which protected several nearby locales in the Coast Range like Drift Creek and Cummins Creek, the Devil’s Staircase was later stripped out of the bill during negotiations.
“The Devil’s Staircase is a classic example of a long-ago vetted Wilderness bill with broad public support,” said Tommy Hough, Communications and Outreach Associate at Oregon Wild. “So much of the Coast Range has been denuded by clearcuts and turned into a monospecies farm of crowded tree plantations, it’s a marvel to see how the Coast Range once was at the Devil’s Staircase. It’s like something you’d find in Olympic National Park.”
A renewed wilderness campaign for Devil’s Staircase resumed in 2007 after the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that manages the eastern quarter of the proposal area, outlined plans to log the area during a forest plan revision. Over the past six years, hundreds of citizens have been guided into the remote area to see it first hand and have advocated for its permanent protection.
The effort has been championed through the Senate by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) in the House of Representatives, and each elected official or his key staff has been guided into the proposed wilderness area to see it firsthand.
The Senate approval yesterday also designated 14 miles of Wasson and Franklin Creeks in the proposal area as Wild and Scenic and was part of a larger package that advanced 14 public lands bills across the country.
Steve Pedery, Conservation Director of Oregon Wild said, “Yesterday’s Senate approval of not only the Devil’s Staircase, but Wilderness proposals in Michigan and Washington, are already further than any Wilderness bills went in Congress last year, which was the first year no Wilderness bills were passed since 1966. Hopefully the Senate approval of the Devil’s Staircase is a sign of better things to come from this Congress.”
Conservation groups are encouraging re-introduction of companion Devil’s Staircase legislation in the US House of Representatives.
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