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Oregon Wildlands Act Crosses A Hurdle in US Senate

Rachael McDonald

A bill to protect thousands of acres and miles of river in Oregon passed out of a key US Senate committee last week.

The Oregon Wildlands Act, introduced by Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkely, would designate more than 200,000 acres as wilderness recreation areas and add more than 250 miles of Wild and Scenic River protections to the state.

One proposed addition is the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness area between the Smith and Umpqua rivers near Reedsport. It would be established on approximately 30,540 acres of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land. Most of the area is on the Siuslaw National Forest.

Robyn Janssen, head of Rogue Riverkeeper says the Wild and Scenic River protections that are part of the bill would maintain high water quality as well as protect jobs near the Rogue River. She says “it’s is a really important resource for us in so many different ways, but especially for the local economy, and if it wasn’t being protected and was being developed or being abused by resource extraction, those jobs would be threatened.”

The bill represents more than 20 years of negotiations. Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. 

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