Rural Oregon & Natural Resources

Senator Wyden has made a career of seeking consensus among environmentalists and natural resource businesses, engendering a greater mutual respect for the environment. Wyden’s record has resulted in saving endangered species and Oregon’s special places. In Oregon, Wyden helped expand wilderness protections for Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge, Copper Salmon, the Oregon Badlands, Spring Basin, the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and the addition of hundreds of miles of Oregon rivers to the Wild and Scenic Rivers system.

Senator Wyden has worked to protect pristine waters in southwestern Oregon from dangerous nickel mining, and to protect the livelihoods of ranchers in Eastern Oregon from hazardous uranium mining. Wyden has taken the lead in protecting old-growth forests and has advocated reform of federal government land management practices. He believes that extractive industries such as oil and coal should pay for all of the costs they impose on public lands and that American taxpayers should get a fair return on commonly held natural resources.

During his tenure, Senator Wyden has been a leader in supporting the collaborative process for land management in rural Oregon, from the collaborative sage grouse habitat conservation plans that prevented a listing of the Greater Sage Grouse to the establishment of a 10 Year Stewardship contract that saved one of the last sawmills in eastern Oregon.

In 2008 Senator Wyden won passage of the Combat Illegal Logging law that is having a real effect on the survival of endangered forests around the world by cutting off the market for illegal timber.

Agriculture  

Oregon is known worldwide for growing some of the finest trees, produce, nuts, grasses, cattle and seeds -- and this great reputation is thanks to the hard work and dedication of Oregon’s farmers.  Yet, due to outdated federal laws, Americans are still unable to grow industrial hemp and contribute to the $1 billion U.S. hemp economy. Senator Wyden has led the fight to legalize industrial hemp for cultivation purposes, and while he continues working to pass legislation that legalizes the crop full-stop, he passed into law a pilot project for Oregon farmers that paves the way for legalization.

Senator Wyden has advocated for farm-to-school programs, like the one he got included in the 2014 Farm Bill that connects local farmers directly with area schools. He also worked to support grant funding for gleaners - the people who collect edible, surplus foods that would otherwise go to waste and distribute it to those in need.

Senator Wyden’s strong support of collaboration  led to conservation plans, collaborative water management efforts and tribal land restoration in the Klamath Basin aimed at preserving water for fish and farmers and protecting traditional land uses that help drive rural economies.

Forestry  

Oregon was built with the help of healthy forests and a thriving timber industry, but today, the increased threat of catastrophic wildfires endangers homes, lives, and crucial forests. Senator Wyden has worked for years to modernize how the U.S. Forest Service pays for fighting wildfires by ending the outdated federal wildfire funding system that underfunds wildfire suppression and forces the Forest Service to “fire borrow” -- rob -- fire prevention funds to extinguish the flames.

Wyden’s Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would end this dangerous cycle and ensure the Forest Service has stable, reliable funding for fire prevention activities like collaborative forest management projects that ensure a stable, sustainable supply of logs for rural mills. Ensuring the Forest Service has the funding it needs for prevention work will reduce the chances that catastrophic fires burn through rural Oregon communities.

Senator Wyden also believes the Bureau of Land Management can better manage Oregon’s unique O&C lands, and has written legislation to expand O&C conservation protections while sustainably increasing O&C timber harvests by more than 200 percent per year for 50 years.

In order to save the last sawmill in John Day, he successfully led a process to provide resources, including a 10-year stewardship contract, for an eastside forest resulting in an increased and sustainable timber harvest.

Clean Air and Water  

Oregonians deserve clean water, a safe environment, and protection from toxic chemicals and industrial waste. In order to ensure clean  drinking water for more than 800,000 people in the Portland area, Senator Wyden passed an amendment to Senator Hatfield’s Oregon Resources Conservation Act in 1996 to protect a 100-square-mile area around the Bull Run Reservoir.  In 2001, Wyden introduced a bill that added nearly 3,000 acres of the Little Sandy Watershed to the Bull Run Watershed Management Unit, which increased the size of Portland’s protected watershed.  

When U.S. Forest Service scientists discovered alarming hot spots of arsenic and cadmium in the air in Southeast Portland, Senator Wyden discovered there was a regulatory gap that allowed unhealthy levels of heavy metal pollution to be released into the air.  Wyden called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to require pollution controls on the furnaces and smokestacks, and to closely monitor the Portland air until it was safe for residents to breathe.  

Senator Wyden has worked with the EPA, the State of Oregon, the City of Portland, the Port of Portland, tribal governments, and other stakeholders to support cleanup of the Willamette River Superfund Site. Senator Wyden continues to work with local stakeholders to ensure the river is cleaned up thoroughly.

County Payments  

In 1999, Senator Wyden teamed up with Republican Senator Larry Craig to author the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, commonly known as the “county payments” law.  The law honors the federal government’s historic commitment to rural communities where the federal government holds land, establishing a payment formula for counties that had previously received revenue-sharing payments from U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands. Since Wyden got the law passed in October 2000, the program has brought more than $3.1 billion dollars to Oregon counties -- to keep teachers in classrooms, sheriffs on the job and roads in good repair.

Wyden secured a one year extension of the program in 2007 and then fought for and won a four-year re-authorization of the program in 2008. He again secured one-year extensions of the program in 2012, 2013 and 2015. The most recent authorization expired at the end of 2016 and Senator Wyden is currently working to extend the program for at least another year, while crafting a long-term economic solution for rural communities.

Energy  

As a senior member and former chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Wyden pushes for a national energy policy that focuses on renewable energy production, low-cost energy storage, and a tax code that promotes low carbon energy  technologies.

Senator Wyden has worked to provide technology-neutral tax incentives for the production of clean electricity and clean transportation fuel. In addition, Senator Wyden has a strong commitment to advancing Eastern Oregon’s windfarms, which are a critical part of rural Oregon’s energy infrastructure, and continues to push for innovative policies to increase automotive fuel mileage while preserving consumer choice.

Hanford  

Senator Wyden has worked for more than 20 years to hold the Department of Energy (DOE) accountable for the cleanup of hazardous nuclear waste from Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State. From his days as a Representative of Oregon’s Third Congressional District, Wyden warned about the dangers of leaking radioactive sludge from the single shelled tanks stored at Hanford. As a senior member and the former chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Wyden continues to press the Department of Energy for a comprehensive plan to safely treat and manage the high-level waste tanks on the site and build a treatment plant to permanently dispose of the high-level waste contained in them. 

Senator Wyden has also been the leading voice demanding protections for whistleblowers who raise concerns about the safety culture at Hanford, calling for independent investigations into unchecked retaliation against whistleblowers who report public safety risks.

Protecting Oregon's Natural Treasures  

Oregon’s public lands and wild places support valuable habitats, crystal-clear water supplies, and untouched wilderness. From working with the Clinton Administration to protect the iconic Steens Mountain area and to establish the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, to writing and passing legislation that creates and expands wilderness protections for some of Oregon’s most treasured areas, Senator Wyden has worked to ensure Oregon’s pristine areas are protected for generations to come.

Senator Wyden has introduced the Oregon Wildlands Act, which would designate some of the last old-growth forests on the Oregon Coast and the wild Rogue River as wilderness, expand wild and scenic designations to 250 miles of rivers, and protect more than 100,000 acres as National Recreation Areas. Senator Wyden also wrote the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary Act to honor the legacy of Frank and Jeanne Moore by strengthening protections in parts of the North Umpqua River.

Recreation  

Oregon’s public lands, with their countless remarkable natural features and diverse landscapes, lend themselves to a variety of recreational pursuits and help support over 170,000 jobs and over $16 billion in annual revenue for Oregon’s economy. Unfortunately, bureaucratic hurdles like inconsistent and arduous permitting applications often make it hard for Oregon’s outfitters, guides, and everyday recreationists to experience the outdoors. To address these concerns, Senator Wyden introduced bipartisan legislation, the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act, to make it easier for people to get outdoors and recreate on public lands across our beautiful state. 

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