Congress Passes 5 Oregon Wilderness Bills

Mar 25, 2009

SEATTLE - Supporters of Oregon’s public lands celebrated today as the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (H.R. 146), which includes Mt. Hood/Columbia Gorge Wilderness, Copper Salmon Wilderness, Oregon Badlands Wilderness, Spring Basin Wilderness and the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument/Soda Mountain Wilderness heads to the White House for approval. All seven of Oregon’s congressional delegation demonstrated an unwavering commitment to preserving some of Oregon’s iconic landscapes.

“Today is a historic day,” said Bob Freimark, Senior Policy Analyst for The Wilderness Society. “Passage of these important Oregon Wilderness bills ensures that rivers flow clean and clear, providing safe drinking water to our communities. Children now and in the future will continue to enjoy the wonderful recreational opportunities on these lands and precious wildlife habitat will be preserved.”

The House voted 285-140 today to pass the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 after the Senate approved the legislation last week. Oregon’s entire congressional delegation affirmed the legislation.

“Oregonians have worked tirelessly over many years to protect these extraordinary areas,” continued Bob Freimark. “We thank the Oregon delegation for their leadership to preserve these special wild lands. By coming together with a unified voice, they showed how important public lands are for Oregon, from the high desert in the Badlands and Spring Basin to the ancient forests in Copper Salmon and Mount Hood, to the incredible biological richness of Soda Mountain.”

Passage of the omnibus includes:

  • Preservation of 202,000 acres in Oregon as Wilderness under the National Wilderness Preservation System, including the Copper-Salmon Wilderness, Soda Mountain Wilderness, Oregon Badlands Wilderness, Spring Basin Wilderness areas and the Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness (including portions of the Columbia Gorge);
     
  • Establishment of the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) proposal, which will preserve Bureau of Land Management landscapes that have “outstanding cultural, ecological, and scientific values for the benefit of current and future generations.” The newly designated Wilderness Areas of Soda Mountain, Badlands, and Spring Basin will be included in the NLCS.
     
  • Additions of 88 miles of river in Oregon to the National Wild and Scenic River System. A sampling of Wild and Scenic Rivers receiving additional protection include the north and south forks of the Elk River, Eagle Creek, Fish Creek, and the south fork of the Roaring River.

The legislation preserves revered old-growth forests and pristine watersheds to ensure the ecological future of fish and wildlife throughout the region, safeguards world-class recreational opportunities and helps bolster the economies of local communities. Thousands of visitors visit the region’s forests to enjoy rafting, fishing, hiking and hunting. Additionally, visitors and residents alike can enjoy snowshoeing, wildlife viewing, skiing and many other forms of recreation. This steady flow of visitors is important to the economic stability of many small towns throughout the state.

Background

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 is comprised of nearly 160 broadly supported, bipartisan bills that preserves key components of America’s natural heritage and provides important economic benefits to struggling local economies.

The Act protects over two million acres of wilderness in nine states, including such American treasures as the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, Oregon’s Mt. Hood and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. This is the greatest expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 15 years, and will forever preserve these important American icons for the benefit of future generations.

The legislation also helps the Pacific Northwest by:

  • Authorizing the Ice Age National Geologic Trail through Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.
  • Designating the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail through Washington, Idaho and Montana.
  • Authorizing a new fire and rescue station at the popular recreation destination of Snoqualmie Pass in Washington state.

Unfortunately, the package also includes a provision that is incompatible with the bill’s conservation measures. The Izembek provision could result in removal of 200 acres of wilderness in Alaska to build a harmful and unnecessary road. The Wilderness Society will continue to work to ensure that this valuable wilderness and wildlife resource remains protected.