I have experienced gratitude, peace, and moments of joy over this most difficult year by spending time on the Eagle, Powder, and Grande Ronde rivers. These rivers are not only beautiful, but essential to our way of life.

I was born and raised in Prineville and am grateful to now be raising my own family in Baker City. I’ve spent many years of my life working in the woods as a wildland firefighter and educator, and am privileged to have explored some of the most remote stretches of our public lands. I now recognize the importance of those experiences, and see the value of these wild places, through the eyes of my daughter.

Our wild rivers and natural places around them are the lifeblood of our community. Some think of Eastern Oregon as an empty sea of sagebrush, but it’s so much more. Not only do wild rivers offer a necessary respite from an increasingly wired-in world, but they are home to wildlife and the source of our clean drinking water. Millions of Oregonians, including those of us in places like Baker, La Grande and Pendleton, depend on our public lands for their drinking water.

Currently, less than 2% of our state’s rivers are protected. These rivers, upon which our communities depend, deserve greater protection. I encourage Sen. Ron Wyden to introduce legislation to protect our state’s Wild and Scenic Rivers, and hope the rivers of Eastern Oregon are well represented. As the world changes, it’s critical we act quickly and boldly to protect what we cherish about rural Oregon — solitude, sustenance and joy.

Sarah Cuddy

Baker City

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