Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Representatives Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., this week introduced legislation to protect and enhance Oregon’s land conservation priorities on Mt. Hood.
Wyden and Merkley introduced the Mt. Hood Cooper Spur Land Exchange Clarification Act in the Senate to help resolve a decades-long dispute over proposed land development on the northeast side of Mt. Hood. Walden and Blumenauer introduced the bill in the House of Representatives.
The bill would allow development of 107 acres of the mountain while protecting 770 acres – a land exchange that was approved eight years ago and should have been completed more than six years ago. The Forest Service has taken steps to complete the exchange, including releasing a draft Environmental Impact Statement last November, but legislation is still needed to ensure the process is completed without further delay.
“This years- and years-long holdup on Mt. Hood has delayed wilderness protections for this stunning landscape and hindered responsible development that would expand recreational opportunities on Mt. Hood. The delay has frustrated Oregonians and forced the local community to take the Forest Service to court,” Wyden said. “It’s far past time to close the book on this chapter of Mt. Hood’s history and move forward with environmental protections and smart development so visitors and wildlife can enjoy the mountain for years to come.”
“This bill will help to preserve unique and beautiful areas on Mt. Hood while boosting the economy of the surrounding community,” Merkley said. “When we can enhance the wilderness areas and create new economic opportunities, everybody wins.”
“Congress first passed our bipartisan bill in 2009, clearly stating that the Forest Service should complete the Mt. Hood Cooper Spur land exchange within 16 months. After eight years, the Forest Service still hasn’t done their job, which is why we are once again introducing legislation directing them to do so,” Walden said. “This land exchange is critical for protecting Crystal Springs, the water source for the City of Hood River and the upper Hood River Valley, and will promote economic growth and family wage jobs in the area. The communities around Mt. Hood have waited long enough, it’s time for the Forest Service to finish the job. I am confident this bill will receive the overwhelming bipartisan support that moved it through the House last year, and hope the Senate will swiftly send this legislation to the President’s desk.”
“It’s been almost eight years since Congress authorized the Cooper-Spur land exchange, and it has yet to be completed,” Blumenauer said. “This is a no brainer, and should no longer be delayed. The Forest Service should do its job and complete this important exchange for Oregon. I’m proud to have worked with Congressman Walden to get this bill across the finish line in the House last Congress, and I’ll continue working with my colleagues in the delegation to make sure that this land exchange finally happens.”
In 2009, Congress passed a broad public lands bill that included the Mt. Hood land exchange as part of the Mt. Hood Wilderness designation. The bill directed the U.S. Forest Service to complete the exchange within 16 months. Multiple delays over the past several years have led to conservation and development uncertainty, community frustration, and a lawsuit against the Forest Service.
The bill passed the Senate in April as part of a series of amendments added to a broad energy bill. The House passed its version of the bill in June.