Washington, D.C. – Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley celebrated the Senate passage of the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness Act today, which will permanently conserve thousands of acres of pristine forest near the Southern Oregon coast. The bill now goes to the House.
“The proposed Devil’s Staircase Wilderness area is undoubtedly one of Oregon’s treasures and the kind of special place truly deserving of permanent protection,” Wyden said. “My forestry philosophy has always been to get the cut up where it makes sense, but to lock-in protections for the most sensitive areas. This bill can foster recreation jobs not far from the Oregon Coast as part of common-sense effort to improve federal management of Oregon’s forests.”
“Last year, Mary and I hiked deep into the heart of the proposed Devil’s Staircase wilderness area. We experienced firsthand the rugged beauty of an intact, old coastal forest and saw firsthand why protecting special places is so important,” said Merkley. “I hope the House acts quickly to protect Devil’s Staircase to help create tourism jobs and recreation opportunities and to make sure future generations will be able to experience these special Oregon places.”
The bill passed unanimously as part of a group of 14 public lands bills from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Wyden chairs. The group included three wilderness bills – more than passed the Senate in the entirety of the previous Congress.
The Devil’s Staircase legislation designates about 30,500 acres of land in the Siuslaw National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management’s Coos District as wilderness and protects about 14 miles of the Wasson and Franklin Creeks. The proposed Devil’s Staircase Wilderness is the finest old-growth forest remaining in Oregon’s Coast Range, boasting huge Douglas-fir, cedar and hemlock trees.
The land is protected as a Late-Successional Reserve by the Northwest Forest Plan, as a critical habitat for the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet, and as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern by the Bureau of Land Management. While the current designations provide conservation the land, the wilderness designation is needed to make those protections permanent.