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Senate Committee Approves Bill to Protect Treasured OR Landscapes

Rogue River rafting outfitter Zach Collier is excited about potential federal protection of his favorite watershed, Baldface Creek, in southern Oregon. (Zachary Collier/Flickr)
Rogue River rafting outfitter Zach Collier is excited about potential federal protection of his favorite watershed, Baldface Creek, in southern Oregon. (Zachary Collier/Flickr)
December 13, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. – A bill to protect unique Oregon landscapes has made it through a key committee in the U.S. Senate.

Introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, the Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act would extend safeguards for the Rogue River and create protections surrounding the Molalla River in Clackamas County and rivers in southwestern Oregon.

State Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, says these protections have been pending for years and the Rogue River area is an important recreational hub.

"This will provide protections on lands that Oregonians treasure and so to have those in perpetuity and to really recognize the irreplaceable value of those landscapes is a tremendous step forward," she states.

The measure advanced out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Thursday. It would create a 30,000 acre recreation area near the Molalla River, establish the 98,000 acre Rogue Canyon Recreation Area and expand the existing Wild Rogue Wilderness Area by 60,000 acres.

It also would ban mining near 100,000 acres of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area.

Zach Collier, who owns Northwest Rafting Company, takes people on trips down the Rogue River. He maintains regions near the river need permanent protections because of their uniqueness and beauty.

"Because of the geology, these plants have adapted to a lack of nutrients and so, there's more rare and endangered plants in these creeks' watersheds than anywhere else in Oregon,” he points out. “And so, if you mine these creeks, it will basically kill a lot of these plants."

Some plant species in the region are found nowhere else in the world.

Collier also notes the bill's importance for outdoor recreation, as a crucial part of Oregon's economy.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, statewide outdoor recreation supports more than $16 billion in consumer spending and 172,000 jobs a year.

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

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR