Washington, D.C. – Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today welcomed Senate passage of a bipartisan package of public lands legislation securing critical measures they achieved for Oregon, including improved flexibility for hazardous fuels reduction efforts and protections for wilderness and wild and scenic rivers in the state.
“Managing our public lands is a matter of public safety, our local recreation economies and the health of the water we as Oregonians drink and air we breathe,” said Wyden, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “This package represents the most comprehensive conservation effort for Oregon by Congress in a decade, while also protecting the safety of rural Oregonians from the threat of wildfires. The House should move quickly to ensure these protections are signed into law.”
“The value of Oregon’s breathtaking landscapes is immeasurable—not only fueling a robust outdoor recreation economy, but also defining who we are as Oregonians,” Merkley said. “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.”
When the public lands legislation becomes law, Wyden will have championed the designation of 1,986 miles of Wild and Scenic rivers in Oregon—more than any other member of Congress, overall, for the contiguous 48 states—ensuring Oregon will have the most wild and scenic river designations in the continental United States.
Public Land and River Protections
The bipartisan public lands package includes provisions of Wyden and Merkley’s Oregon Wildlands Act that will:
- Create the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness by designating roughly 30,000 acres of remote lands in the Oregon Coast Range.
- Permanently protect the Chetco River—a critical source of drinking water and habitat for endangered salmon in southwest Oregon—from mining and mineral extraction.
- Designate 250 miles of prime Oregon salmon- and steelhead-producing rivers and streams as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, including: about 120 miles of Rogue River tributaries; a 21-mile stretch of the Molalla River; 18 miles of Jenny Creek, which flows through the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument; 21 miles of Wasson Creek and Franklin Creek in the Siuslaw National Forest; and several important tributaries of the Elk River.
- Protect an additional 40 miles of Rogue River tributaries from mining and future dam installations.
Honor Oregon Couple’s Conservation Legacy with Steelhead Sanctuary
The package also includes legislation introduced by Wyden, Merkley, and Rep. Peter DeFazio honoring Frank and Jeanne Moore, an Oregon couple with a distinguished legacy of conservation and habitat preservation. The Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Designation Act designates nearly 100,000 acres of Forest Service land north of the North Umpqua River as the “Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area” and ensures the river, and the surrounding area, will protect steelhead habitat and preserve recreation opportunities for generations to come. Frank Moore returned to the North Umpqua after serving in the European theatre during World War II and settled there, with Jeanne, guiding generations of fishers on the river.
Improved Wildfire Resiliency Efforts
The bipartisan lands package includes a provision to improve the efforts of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to protect Crooked River Ranch, a community in central Oregon, from the catastrophic effects of wildfire. The provision would release a small number of acres near Crooked River Ranch from a wilderness study area, and includes an amendment secured by Wyden to ensure those lands are managed for forest health and wildfire resiliency.
The legislation now goes to the House.
“Oregon is the Wild and Scenic Rivers state and I’m exceptionally proud that we’re adding more watersheds and more miles of National Wild and Scenic Rivers,” said Zach Collier, owner of Northwest Rafting Company. “The Chetco and Elk Rivers are particularly important to me and I’m happy to see increased protection to these exceptional watersheds. I want to thank Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley for their leadership in passing this through the Senate, and I urge the House to swiftly move to pass this public lands package now.”
“Oregon’s craft brewers support the Oregon Wildlands Act because it protects the outdoor spaces that make Oregon special and that provide us with the clean water we need to make world class beer,” said Ross Putnam, Co-Founder and General Manager of Base Camp Brewing. “Thanks to Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader for fighting for Oregon’s wild lands and rivers. I am hopeful that Congress follows their lead and invests in small businesses that rely on protected public lands by passing this legislation.”
“As a Pinnacle Member of The Conservation Alliance, KEEN has dedicated significant resources for more than a decade towards efforts to protect public lands and waters here in Oregon, and across North America,” said Erin Gaines, Advocacy Manager at KEEN. “Passing the Oregon Wildlands Act and the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Designation Act would be a huge victory for all Oregonians. I hope Congress sees what we see in our natural treasures, and moves quickly to pass this important package.”
A web version of this release is available here.