Wyden, Merkley Reintroduce Legislation to Help Recreation and Wildfire Prevention Work in SW Oregon and Near Molalla River

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

“Oregon’s rivers
and public lands are the heart and soul of our state. These treasured
places generate jobs in rural communities, and continue to
be the source of clean drinking water,” said Wyden. “By ensuring conservation and
fire mitigation go hand in hand, this legislation builds on the
Oregon Way of coming together to protect these treasures for
generations to come.”

“These areas are
among Oregon’s most breathtaking landscapes and are vital in supporting the
state’s economy and in addressing climate chaos,” Merkley said. “Protecting these natural areas not only
fuels a robust outdoor recreation economy, but is also a part of who we are as
Oregonians. It is our responsibility to protect these lands and headwaters from
degradation and mining, increasingly intense wildfires, and other damaging
impacts. Our lands and waters are our greatest resource, and it’s on us to
ensure they are passed down to future generations in good shape.” 

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 identified by federal land managers as land that should be
    protected and conserved.

Each of these three proposed recreation and wilderness
designations would require forest health, wildfire resiliency, and other
wildfire prevention strategies in the region to continue.

The ORE Act also would permanently
prevent irresponsible mining on more than 100,000 acres of
Forest Service land near the existing Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area. These areas
are 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.  

A one pager on the legislation is here.

Bill text is here.

“As the owner of a
recreation-based business, I really appreciate our Senators’ leadership in
reintroducing the Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act,” said Dave
Lacey, owner of South Coast Tours in Gold Beach. “My business and my community rely on clean water, salmon, and
thriving ecosystems—all of which would be wrecked by strip mining at the
headwaters of the streams that earn our region its name: America’s Wild Rivers

“Oregonians and
visitors are recreating outdoors on our public lands like never before,
supporting a growing outdoor recreation industry,” said David Moryc
of American Rivers. “Senators
Wyden and Merkley are ensuring the special places in our state that draw people
from near and far, including the Rogue and Molalla Rivers, will remain special
for generations to come.” 

“The Pew Charitable
Trusts commends Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley’s leadership in bringing
together business leaders, local elected officials, sportsmen and sportswomen,
environmental organizations, and others to craft the Oregon Recreation
Enhancement Act,” said Brett Swift, senior manager with Pew’s U.S.
public lands and rivers conservation project. “This legislation provides important protections for some of the most
threatened lands and rivers in Oregon. These unique natural resources are
treasured by Oregonians as sources of clean drinking water, unmatched
opportunities for hiking, fishing, and hunting, and economic engines that drive
the state’s tourism and recreation economy.”

“My outfitting
business offers rafting trips on both the Wild and Scenic Illinois and Rogue
Rivers so I know firsthand that Southwest Oregon’s rivers are some of the
nation’s very best and also how outdoor recreation supports the local
economy” said Zach Collier of Northwest Rafting Company. “To conserve these remarkable
recreation experiences these rivers provide, we need to protect their
headwaters into the future. I applaud Senator Wyden and Senator Merkley for
their efforts to pass the Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act to protect
southwest Oregon’s rivers from the threats of strip mining.”

“The headwaters
of Southwest Oregon’s wild and scenic rivers are no place for strip mining,” said
Ann Vileisis, President of Kalmiopsis Audubon Society in Port Orford. “These special rivers happen to be in
our ‘public-lands backyard,’ but they are truly national treasures! They
provide clean water for local communities, salmon runs that draw anglers from
afar, and many other terrific recreation opportunities. We appreciate Senator
Wyden’s and Merkley’s leadership and work toward protecting the cherished wild
rivers of our ‘Wild Rivers Coast.’”

“The effort to
protect Rough and Ready Creek has spanned three decades,” said
Barbara Ullian of Friends of the Kalmiopsis in Grants Pass. “This wild and botanically-rich creek
is utterly unique, beloved by all who know it—it’s also the headwaters of the
exceptional National Wild and Scenic Illinois and Rogue rivers. We’re grateful
to Senator Wyden and Senator Merkley for including a mineral withdrawal
provision in the ORE Act that will not only help protect the headwaters of our
cherished wild rivers but also the clean drinking water of thousands in downstream
communities from the pollution and irreversible impacts of industrial scale
strip mining.”

“Being raised
in rural Josephine County, I spent a lot of time on the Rogue and Illinois
Rivers growing up,” said Allee Gustafson of Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands
Center in Central Point. “These
amazing rivers are places where people can recreate in many different ways—from
swimming to boating and fishing. But it goes deeper than that: our rivers are
literally interwoven into the social and economic fabric of rural southern
Oregon. Thanks to Senator Wyden and Senator Merkley for their leadership to
steward and protect these renowned but threatened watersheds and for preserving
outdoor experiences that are increasingly hard to find.”