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Public-Lands Advocates Expect Ore. Protections in 2019

The Oregon Wildlands Act would designate more than 250 miles of wild and scenic rivers in the state. (Zachary Collier/Flickr)
The Oregon Wildlands Act would designate more than 250 miles of wild and scenic rivers in the state. (Zachary Collier/Flickr)
December 26, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – People who rely on public lands are urging members of Congress to protect iconic Oregon landscapes at the start of their 2019 session.

With the 115th Congress occupied by a spending bill, time ran out for the Oregon Wildlands Act and the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Designation Act. But some members of Congress have promised to vote in January on a public-lands package that would protect more than 1.8 million acres in four states.

Although he is disappointed that the Oregon-related bills didn't pass this year, Zach Collier, owner of Northwest Rafting Company, said he believes their approval is inevitable.

"We want these bills to pass, but these are 'no-brainers,' Collier said. "I mean, these are all slam dunks. They're going to happen – hopefully in January – but they'll happen eventually."

Collier said he's appreciative of Sen. Ron Wyden's, D-Ore., work on this.

The Oregon Wildlands Act would provide wilderness protections to roughly 36,000 acres to the Devil's Staircase area, and designate more than 250 miles of wild and scenic rivers. The other bill, named for local outdoor enthusiasts Frank and Jeannie Moore, would protect nearly 100,000 acres in Douglas County.

According to Liz Hamilton, executive director the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, these protections would have a profound effect on the health of river systems that are key to Oregon's salmon and steelhead populations.

She said there's been a grassroots movement from locals to get these areas protected, and praised Wyden's steadfast work supporting these bills.

As Hamilton put it, "He is committed, and those of us who care about these iconic rivers that he's been working to protect – the Molalla, the Rogue, the Elk, the Chetco, Umpqua – these projects have been in process for decades, and we're thrilled to have a champion work on it and we're thrilled to continue the work."

The Oregon bills are included in a lands package that also would protect areas in California, New Mexico and Utah.

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

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR