Oregon rivers, lands would gain protection under bill passed
by U.S. Senate
Oregon Public Broadcasting
A national public lands bill approved by the U.S. Senate on
Tuesday includes wilderness protections for the Devil’s
Staircase in southwestern Oregon, a 30,000-acre area that
includes some of the largest old-growth forest stands in the
The measure also includes a number of wild and scenic river
designations, including portions of the Molalla River east of
Salem, about 120 miles of Rogue River tributaries, and Jenny and
Spring Creeks in southern Oregon.
Altogether, according to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, the measure
would provide protection for about 250 miles of rivers and
streams in Oregon. That would give the state more wild and
scenic designations than any other state besides Alaska, he
The bill also would allow forest thinning to reduce fire danger
in a wilderness area near the Crooked River Ranch, north of
In addition, the bill calls for a unified national volcano early
warning and monitoring system that aides to Sen. Maria Cantwell,
D-Washington, said will provide additional resources for the
Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington.
The measure passed on a bipartisan 92-8 vote and now goes to the
House. The measure is important nationally because it contains
provisions aimed at stabilizing funding from the Land and Water
Conservation Fund for a wide variety of parks and other outdoor
assets. The fund receives about $900 million a year in revenues
from off-shore oil drilling, but Congress has siphoned off some
of the money for other uses.
The final bill passed by the Senate did not include two key
recreation area designations sought by Wyden. One added another
100,000 acres to the Rogue River area and the other provided
protection for 30,000 acres in the Molalla River watershed.
Wyden and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, had sparred over those
In particular, Walden argued that the Rogue River wilderness
additions could hurt efforts to thin forests and reduce wildfire
impacts on southern Oregon. Wyden said he would continue to
fight for those wilderness areas.
“I’m coming back,” Wyden said in an interview. “I’m coming back
to do more.”
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