Merkley Supports Quick Action on Public Lands Bill

Washington, DC – Today, Energy and National Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman reintroduced legislation to protect important public lands in Oregon, including an expansion of the Mt. Hood Wilderness Area.  Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley applauded the move and pledged to support passage of the legislation.

“Mt. Hood has long been one of our state’s most treasured recreational and scenic areas.  More than 4 million Oregonians and people from around the world visit Mt. Hood National Forest every year,” said Merkley.  “It is not only an iconic symbol of our state, it’s contains critical habitat areas that must be protected for future generations.  This bill should have passed long ago but it is right that Congress is acting on it now.”

The public lands bill consists of numerous pieces of legislation that were blocked from consideration by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.  Among those bills are five that would directly affect Oregon:  the Copper Salmon Wilderness Act, Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act of 2007, Oregon Badlands Wilderness Act of 2008, Spring Basin Wilderness Act of 2008, and the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument Voluntary and Equitable Grazing Conflict Resolution Act. 

The Mt. Hood Wilderness Area expansion is particularly notable as it would give wilderness protection to over 127,000 acres and designate 79 miles of rivers as Wild and Scenic Rivers around Mt. Hood and in the Columbia Gorge.

Today’s bill introduction – coming on only the second day of the 111th Congress – will allow for quick consideration of the public lands bill despite Coburn’s objection. 

“The expansion and protection of these wild areas is long overdue.  Chairman Bingaman and Senator Ron Wyden, in particular, deserve applause for not taking their eye off this ball for a moment and for making sure the Senate acts on this bill,” said Merkley.