Effort to Protect the Rogue Continues (OR)
At the end of last Congress, the House and Senate negotiated a public lands package that ultimately resulted in 256 new miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers for Oregon when the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act was signed into law on March 12th, 2019. While rivers like the Molalla and several tributaries of the Rogue were designated Wild and Scenic, the lands surrounding the immediate river corridor were left unprotected. Despite the hard work of Senator Wyden, a leader on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, new wilderness for BLM-administered lands on the Wild and Scenic Rogue River, a recreation area for BLM-administered lands around Galice and Bear Camp Road, and a recreation area for lands along the Molalla River, were all left out of the final package.
With a commitment to finish the job, and building on the successful effort to move these initiatives out of committee with bipartisan support last Congress, Senator Wyden was joined by Senator Merkley in introducing the Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act (S. 1262) on May 1st, 2019. The bill is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on May 14th, 2019.
The Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act (S. 1262) would establish the following three designations:
Rogue Canyon Recreation Area: Establish a 98,150 acre Recreation Area on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management adjacent to the Wild Rogue Wilderness Area. This includes lands along the upper reaches of the Wild and Scenic corridor often enjoyed for day use near Galice as well as lands along the Bear Camp Road. While existing roads would remain, no new permanent roads would be constructed, wildfire management would continue to be permitted, new mining claims would be prohibited, and lands would be managed for purposes of protecting, conserving, and enhancing the unique and nationally important recreational, ecological, scenic, cultural, watershed, and fish and wildlife values.
Wild Rogue Wilderness Expansion: Expand the existing Wild Rogue Wilderness Area to approximately 59,512 acres. Although river runners and trail users experiencing the Wild and Scenic Rogue River enjoy a backcountry experience from Grave Creek to Foster Bar, the river is not protected as wilderness until you pass through Mule Creek Canyon and enter the lower reaches of the run administered by the Forest Service. This expansion would protect the river corridor along the entire length of the wild-classified section of the Rogue River as wilderness.
Molalla Recreation Area: Establish a 29,884-acre Recreation Area on the banks of the Molalla River in Clackamas County adjacent to the Table Rock Wilderness Area. While the Molalla was designated as a Wild and Scenic River in March 2019, this designation would provide complementary protection to the lands along the river corridor and ensure that they are managed for purposes of protecting, conserving, and enhancing the unique and nationally important recreational, ecological, scenic, cultural, watershed, and fish and wildlife values.
In addition to these protected areas, the Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act would protect more than 100,000 acres of federal lands along the headwater streams of Baldface Creek, Rough and Ready Creek, Hunter Creek, and Pistol River from new mining claims. These lands are located at the headwaters of rivers like the Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith and Illinois Rivers that represent spectacular whitewater boating resources known for their exceptional water quality. While the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management issued a 20-year administrative withdrawal from new mining claims in 2016, the legislation would make this protection permanent.
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