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2009: Oregon’s Conservation Milestones

December 31, 2009

PORTLAND, Ore. - The year 2009 is dotted with important milestones for the conservation community in Oregon. For starters, the state got more than 200,000 new acres of federally designated wilderness, created in March with passage of the Omnibus Wilderness Act.

Matt Little, Pacific Northwest regional representative for the National Wildlife Federation, says this action was even more significant because it was bipartisan.

"It takes a whole bunch of grassroots efforts to get everyone on board with something like a public lands designation. The neat thing about it is that all of Oregon's congressional delegation voted for this bill."

Little says keeping the Roadless Rule intact is another milestone, restricting new road building in national forests. And in December, timber companies and conservation groups promised to work together in the six national forests in eastern Oregon, with a focus on protecting streams and older trees.

The Oregon Legislature approved a system of marine reserves along the coast, too; the first two pilot sites are near Depoe Bay and Port Orford. State lawmakers also took a small step toward cleaner air, Little notes.

"In Oregon, we changed the fuel standard so that transportation fuel must be 10 percent less carbon input by 2020. The legislation also gives authority to DEQ to do other strategies to reduce emissions from transportation."

Little says his group's biggest priority for the New Year is getting a climate change bill through the U.S. Senate. He says Oregonians should be concerned, because changing weather patterns are affecting endangered salmon and steelhead.

"It changes their entire habitat: Everything from the oceans being more acidified, which affects the fish's food source, to the headwater streams where they spawn that will have less snowpack and more storm events that scour the streams. We definitely want to fix this problem."

Also on the NWF "to-do" list for 2010 are updates to the federal mining laws and the Clean Water Act, he adds, both of which will directly affect Oregon.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR