Wyden, Merkley Introduce Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today introduced legislation that would boost recreation opportunities in Southwestern Oregon and on the Molalla River in Clackamas County while preserving wildfire prevention work in both of those regions.

The senators’ Oregon Recreation Enhancement (ORE) Act would create the Rogue Canyon Recreation Area and the Molalla Recreation Area, expand the Wild Rogue Wilderness Area, and prohibit destructive mining on pristine rivers in Southwestern Oregon.

“These natural treasures generate both awe from everybody who visits them and jobs for many Oregonians in our state’s growing recreation economy,” Wyden said. “This bill recognizes these special areas in southwestern Oregon and on the Molalla need protections while maintaining proven forest management strategies that reduce the risk of wildfire.”

“These areas are among Oregon’s most breathtaking landscapes,” Merkley said. “Not only do they fuel a robust outdoor recreation economy, they also are part of who we are as Oregonians. It is our responsibility to protect these lands from degradation, increasingly intense wildfires, and other impacts so our greatest resource is available to future generations.”

The ORE Act would make the following three designations:

Molalla Recreation Area: Establish a 30,000-acre recreation area on the banks of the Molalla River in Clackamas County next to the Table Rock Wilderness Area.

Rogue Canyon Recreation Area: Establish a 98,000-acre recreation area on the banks of the Rogue River in Southwestern Oregon next to the Wild Rogue Wilderness Area.

Wild Rogue Wilderness Expansion: Expand the existing Wild Rogue Wilderness Area by about 60,000 acres. The federal land included within this expansion has been set aside by federal land managers as land that should be protected and conserved.

Each of these three proposed recreation and wilderness designations would allow current forest management, forest health, wildfire resiliency and other wildfire prevention strategies to continue.

The ORE Act also would permanently prevent mining on more than 100,000 acres of Forest Service land near the existing Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area. These areas are located at the headwaters of several National Wild and Scenic Rivers, and support clean drinking water for thousands of Oregonians. After much public input and local consensus, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management issued a 20-year mineral withdrawal for this area in 2016.  

Wyden introduced all four designations in the last Congress, but these provisions were not included in the public lands bill passed into law earlier this year that contained significant public lands gains throughout Oregon as well as added wildfire protections for Crooked River Ranch in central Oregon.

The wildfire protections proposed in the ORE Act build on recently enacted wildfire legislation that included passage of the bipartisan bill eliminating federal agencies’ flawed practice of borrowing from wildfire prevention funds; urging the Forest Service to develop a plan addressing the hazardous fuels backlog in the woods; and working to secure $7 million to train National Guard members to fight wildfires.

A one-page summary of the bill is here.

A web version of this bill is here.