Once in a blue moon all five Oregon Congressman will unanimously agree with each other. This blue moon rose last week with the Omnibus Public Lands vote on Capital Hill, and then quickly set as one of the largest wilderness designation bill in U.S. history failed to pass the House of Representatives by two votes.
It says a lot about the importance of this bill to Oregonians when all five Oregon representatives joined ranks to push for final passage. We thank Congressman Greg Walden for joining 32 other Republicans who put partisan politics aside and voted what was best for our state. If passed, this bill will have lasting positive impacts on Oregons fish and wildlife. We urge our congressmen to not give up and to keep fighting for final passage.
Included in the Public Lands Bill are many wilderness and scenic river designations that will serve to protect Oregons wild places and outdoor heritage for our childrens future. At a time when our economy is chaotic, it is places like these that remain constant places that offer our families a break from the stress of the daily grind. Specific pieces of the legislation that will impact Oregon include:
n The Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act of 2007, which protects areas around Mount Hood including almost 127,000 acres of wilderness and adds 79 miles on nine free-flowing stretches of rivers to the National Wild and Scenic River System.
n The Copper Salmon Wilderness Act, which protects the headwaters of the North Fork of the Elk River and would add 13,700 acres of new wilderness and designate 9.3 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers.
n The Oregon Badlands Wilderness Act of 2008, which would designate as wilderness almost 30,000 acres of the area just east of Bend known as the Badlands.
n The Cascade Siskiyou National Monument Voluntary and Equitable Grazing Conflict Resolution Act, which would establish a 23,000-acre Soda Mountain Wilderness and authorizes the permanent retirement of grazing allotments within the monument.
n The Spring Basin Wilderness Act of 2008, which would designate approximately 8,600 acres as the Spring Basin Wilderness.
Many individuals and organizations throughout Oregon worked hard to create these local solutions to protecting our remaining habitats from Oregons rapidly advancing development. These decisions are the results of many years of work and compromise to create solutions that work for the local economy and environment.
As a proud volunteer for the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, I work with dedicated anglers throughout Oregon who put aside politics to restore our waterways and maintain our strong salmon runs. In this one piece of legislation, we will protect vast areas in Oregon that are critical to healthy watersheds and clean spawning grounds.
Rep. Walden, and all our congressional delegation, should be commended for their efforts to protect Oregons great natural heritage. We urge our members to stay strong on the next vote, which will determine the final outcome of these hard-fought protections. It will be places like these that will instill the same wonder and excitement in our grandchildren that we experienced as kids and carry forward today in our conservation efforts.
Tom Smoot grew up in Eastern Oregon and currently is the President of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders.