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OR Advocates Travel to D.C. to Push for Public Lands Protections

Outdoor advocates are in Washington, D.C., asking Congress to consider a bill that would protect Steamboat Creek, a renowned steelhead sanctuary. (Bureau of Land Management)
Outdoor advocates are in Washington, D.C., asking Congress to consider a bill that would protect Steamboat Creek, a renowned steelhead sanctuary. (Bureau of Land Management)
June 15, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Advocates from Oregon are converging on Washington, D.C., this week to push Congress to pass proposed legislation protecting public lands. They'll be joined by others from across the country, asking members of Congress to make some decisions before this year's short session ends.

Of particular importance to Oregon are bills to protect the Owyhee Canyonlands, parts of the Rogue River and steelhead-spawning areas in Douglas County. Bob Rees, executive director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, said public lands are crucial recreational areas.

"Sportsmen's numbers continue to be important to the economy in Oregon," he said, "and public lands are really the only opportunity that the general hunter and angler has to go and recreate."

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both D-Ore., introduced Senate Bill 1448, the Frank Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary Designation Act, last summer to protect parts of a tributary to the North Umpqua River, which is renowned as a sanctuary for steelhead spawning. The bill has yet to come up for a vote.

Rees said Oregon's growing population increases demand for recreational opportunities in the state, "but it also increases demand for natural resources such as oil and gas, and we want to make sure that these already-pristine lands are protected for future generations of Oregonians."

Last week, Wyden and Merkley introduced SB 3048, the Southeastern Oregon Mineral Withdrawal and Economic Preservation and Development Act. It would ban future mining operations on more than 2 million acres of the Owyhee Canyonlands, but would allow agricultural uses by local farmers and ranchers.

The text of SB 1448 is online here, and SB 3048 is here.

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Support for this reporting was provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR