July 25, 2007

Senate Committee Approves Mount Hood Wilderness Expansion

Agreement includes protections for nearly 125,000 additional acres, added National Recreation Areas and 81 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) announced that their efforts to expand permanent protections for wilderness surrounding Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge took a big step forward today when the U.S Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the "Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act of 2007." Committee members Wyden and Smith - who spearheaded the effort as coauthors of the legislation - called the Committee vote a "victory for Oregonians."

"It's a new day for wilderness and we are now poised to pass the protection that Mt. Hood deserves," said Wyden.

"A successful climb is measured by a successful return," Smith said. "The Oregon delegation has worked together to meet the goal of preserving the lands and waters of Mt. Hood. Let's keep forging ahead to the summit and bring this effort home together."

The Committee-passed legislation increases existing wilderness protections by almost 125,000 acres, and grants Wild and Scenic River protections to an additional 80 miles of Oregon rivers, while creating more than 34,000 acres of a Mount Hood National Recreation Area with improved access for mountain biking and other recreation opportunities. Passage of this legislation - which Wyden and Smith identified as a top priority in their "Agenda For Oregon in the 110th Congress" - is the product of meetings and negotiations with over 100 Oregon community groups and local governments, members of the Oregon Congressional delegation, Governor Ted Kulongoski, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Bush administration.

The Senators' proposed wilderness areas are some of the most cherished natural places in Oregon and were selected to reduce potential conflicts with other recreational uses. Theses areas include: Hunchback Mountain, Clackamas Canyon, Memaloose Lake, Mirror Lake, Richard L. Kohnstamm Memorial Area, Sand Canyon, Sandy Additions, Inch Creek, Lower White River, Larch Mountain, South Fork Clackamas, Twin Lakes, Barlow Butte, Bonney Butte, White River, Badger Creek Additions, Salmon River Meadows, Sisi Butte, Upper Big Bottom, Bull of the Woods, Roaring River, Eagle Creek, Cloud Cap, Alder Creek, Elk Cove/Mazama, Big Bottom, Gorge Face, Bull of the Woods and Tilly Jane.

Among the rivers proposed for further protection are the picturesque waterfalls and glacial outwash of the East Fork of the Hood River and Over 17 miles of superb salmon and steelhead habitat on the Collowash River. All told, the Senators are proposing a 47 percent increase to the Wild and Scenic Rivers network of Mount Hood. The additional miles of rivers to be protected include: East Fork Hood River, Middle Fork Hood River, Zig Zag River, Eagle Creek, Fifteen Mile Creek, South Fork Roaring River, South Fork Clackamas River, Collowash River and Fish Creek.

The proposal would also create a Mount Hood National Recreation Area that includes Shellrock Mountain, the classic alpine aquamarine waters at Boulder Lake and the ponderosa pines of Fifteenmile Creek Oregon's newest National Recreation Area provides permanent protections from commercial development, road-building and large-scale commercial logging. It also provides opportunities for mountain biking and other diverse recreational opportunities.

With the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, the United States became the world's first nation to define and designate wilderness areas through law. The Wilderness Act initially protected 9.1 million acres of U.S. national forest, while today wilderness areas amount to more than 105 million acres of the nation's most pristine national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests.

To view maps of the proposed "Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act of 2007" visit: http://wyden.senate.gov/mthood/maps.html