January 30, 2008

Senate Committee Passes Copper Salmon Wilderness Act

Legislation includes protection for over 13,700 acres and 9.2 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today passed S. 2034, the Copper Salmon Wilderness Act. In advance of the committee's vote, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who introduced S. 2034 in the Senate, submitted the below statement for the hearing record:

Statement of Senator Ron Wyden
ENR Business Meeting January 30, 2008
On S. 2034, the Copper Salmon Wilderness Act

I am pleased that today we will be voting to move out of the Committee legislation that will protect a very special place in my home state of Oregon - S. 2034, the Copper Salmon Wilderness Act. This bill would provide permanent protections to the headwaters of the North Fork of the Elk River, adjacent to the existing Grassy Knob Wilderness and known as the Copper Salmon area. This will mean 13,700 acres of new wilderness and 9.3 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers protections. I am pleased that my fellow Senator from Oregon, Senator Smith, is a cosponsor of this legislation.

During the last decade, a dedicated group of locals has been working hard to protect Copper Salmon. It is one of the last intact watersheds near the Southwest Oregon Coast and, because of that, Copper Salmon is renown among fishermen. The Elk has healthy wild runs of winter steelhead and Chinook, as well as some coho salmon and trout. Oregon State University researchers believe it is one of the healthiest anadromous fish streams in the lower 48 because of the intact habitat. Copper Salmon also supports healthy populations of blacktail deer, elk, black bear and mountain lion and provides opportunities to hunt in freedom and solitude.

My bill's Wilderness and Wild and Scenic designations will protect this watershed and ensure that hunting and fishing opportunities are protected in the Copper Salmon area. Wilderness designation is popular in the local area, as evidenced by resolutions in favor of it from the Port Orford Chamber of Commerce, the mayor of Port Orford, and the Curry County Commissioners. Additionally, a majority of the guides, lodges and local citizens have supported this proposal. It is time now that we all come together and permanently protect this special place.

As Oregon's population grows, I believe that we must match this growth and the corresponding development with protection of our natural heritage. Protection of these areas will ensure that Oregonians and visitors will continue to enjoy opportunities to hike is the wilderness, hunt healthy populations of elk, blacktail deer, black bear, mountain lion and to catch trophy-sized chinook and steelhead.

Mr. Chairman, I ask that my comments be printed in the committee's hearing record.