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Is “Third Time a Charm” for Mt. Hood Protection?

April 4, 2008

Washington, D.C. - Bills in the U.S. House and Senate that would increase the amount of federally protected land on Oregon's Mount Hood have been stopped cold the past two years, but two Oregon congressmen, Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio, are giving it another try. They’re finalizing what they call the "Oregon Treasures Vision Act," which would add 132,000 acres of designated wilderness and name nine new "Wild and Scenic Rivers" in the state.

Though other, similar, legislation hasn't gotten off the ground, Blumenauer is confident this effort will be different.

"With the change now in leadership that is more favorable towards the environment–-and wilderness in particular–-we think that we have an even stronger chance if we can get something through the Senate."

Blumenauer is referring to the change of majority party in the Senate, meaning that efforts there to delay wilderness legislation will be less effective than formerly. He says the plan he and Rep. DeFazio are proposing now has been fine-tuned over five years, with a lot of public input. It would also add protection for the Oregon Caves National Monument and the Rogue River.

Another reason the congressmen are acting now is because the global warming debate and other environmental issues in the news have "ramped up" public concern about protection for Mount Hood, Blumenauer explains.

"People understand that it is potentially threatened. If we don't take care of it, we could end up loving the mountain to death. We need to have more opportunities to protect special places."

Oregon has less than half as much federally designated wilderness as Washington State (3.7 percent against 10 percent) and less than a third as much as California, which has 14 percent.

Their bill hasn't been filed yet, but Blumenauer and DeFazio say they're putting the finishing touches on it. The two bills still awaiting Senate passage are the "Mt. Hood Stewardship Legacy Act" and the "Lewis & Clark/Mt. Hood Wilderness Act."

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR