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Congress Introduces Protections for Oregon Rivers

Posted: 07/06/2015
by Megan Hooker

Recently, Congress has taken several important steps to protect cherished whitewater rivers and wild landscapes throughout Oregon. Last week, Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley introduced the 2015 Oregon Wildlands Act, proposing to protect Devil's Staircase near the Oregon Coast as Wilderness, the Molalla and Rogue Rivers as National Recreation Areas, and expand the national Wild and Scenic Rivers System at all three locations. Additionally, earlier this year Representatives Peter DeFazio (OR) and Jared Huffman (CA) joined Senators Wyden and Merkley in introducing the Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act of 2015, which protects the pristine watersheds of Southwestern Oregon from mining activity through a permanent mineral withdrawal.
 
Rogue, Molalla and Devil's Staircase: 2015 Oregon Wildlands Act 
 
The 2015 Oregon Wildlands Act proposes to protect more than 200,000 acres of Oregon’s most pristine and environmentally and recreationally significant lands as Wilderness or National Recreation Areas, and add over 250 miles of rivers to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System. 
 
On the Rogue River, the Act expands the Wild Rogue Wilderness, adds 125 miles to the national Wild and Scenic River System, and establishes the Rogue Canyon National Recreation Area to protect and enhance the unique fish and wildlife and recreational values of the area. On the Molalla River, the Act establishes the Molalla National Recreation Area, protecting 24,000 acres and the river as Wild and Scenic. And in the Oregon Coast Range, in between the Umpqua and Smith Rivers, the act establishes the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness, protecting over 30,000 acres of old-growth forest and designating additional creeks as Wild and Scenic Rivers.  
 
Kalmiopsis Rivers: Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act 
 
The wild and rugged rivers of the Kalmiopsis region in southwestern Oregon and Northwestern California face threats from two mining companies that are actively seeking to develop three nickel strip mines in the region. 
 
Earlier this year, Senators Wyden and Merkley (OR) and Representatives DeFazio (OR) and Huffman (CA) introduced the Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act of 2015. The legislation proposes to permanently protect sensitive and pristine watersheds in the region from mining threats. These include Baldface Creek (tributary to the Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith River), Rough and Ready Creek (tributary to the Wild and Scenic Illinois River), the Wild and Scenic Chetco River and the headwaters of Hunter Creek and the Pistol River on the Oregon Coast. The legislation proposes to “withdraw” these watersheds from mining activity, meaning that no new mining claims can be established. 
 
In late June, the BLM followed suit and announced that it was considering a temporary administrative “mineral withdrawal” while Congress considers the legislation. The announcement triggers a 2-year window where new mining claims are prohibited while the agency undergoes the NEPA process to consider whether to implement a 5-year withdrawal.
 
Saying Thank You!
 
We'll need your help to show support for these proposals in the coming weeks. Stay tuned to American Whitewater for ways that you can help support both the administrative withdrawal to protect Kalmiopsis rivers and legislation that protects Oregon's wild rivers and public lands throughout the state. 
 
In the meantime, please join us in thanking our Congressmen for their ongoing efforts to protect the clean water, outdoor recreation, and the wildlife, fishery and botanical values of wild rivers and public lands across the state. Thanks to Senators Wyden and Merkley for their proposal to protect the Rogue and Molalla Rivers, and Devil’s Staircase, and to Senators Wyden and Merkley and Representatives DeFazio and Huffman for their efforts to protect Kalmiopsis Rivers from mining threats, including Baldface Creek, the Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith River, Rough and Ready Creek, the Wild and Scenic Illinois River, and the Wild and Scenic Chetco River. 
 
*Thanks to Northwest Rafting Company for the photos!*


Associated Projects

Kalmiopsis Rivers (OR/CA)
American Whitewater is working to protect the wild rivers of Southwestern Oregon and Northern California from the threats of nickel strip mines.
Restoring the Rogue (OR)
One of the great Rivers of the West, preserving the the Wild Rogue and restoring upstream reaches impacted by dams are priorities for American Whitewater.