December 15, 2011

Wyden and Merkley Introduce Bill to Protect 60K acres around Rogue River

Washington, D.C. – Continuing their efforts to preserve and protect Oregon’s most wild and environmentally important areas, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) have introduced legislation that will add 60,000 acres of new wilderness to the existing Wild Rogue Wilderness area and protect an additional 143 miles of tributaries that feed into the iconic Rogue River. Representative DeFazio (D-Ore.) has introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

Identified in 2008 by American Rivers as the second most endangered river in the U.S., Wyden and Merkley have worked to provide additional protections for this important recreational, ecological and economic natural resource.

“The Rogue River area is part of the lifeblood of southern Oregon’s recreational economy,” Wyden said. “It attracts thousands of hikers, rafters and outdoor enthusiasts every year and pumps an average of $13 million into the local economy. What’s more, it is home to some of Oregon’s most important fish and wildlife species including cougars, bear, salmon and steelhead. These proposed protections emerged from discussions between environmental and business groups who realize protecting Oregon’s natural resources like the Rogue is in the best interest of all Oregonians.”

“The Rogue River and surrounding wild areas are one of Oregon’s true gems – known around the world for world-class fishing and recreation,” Merkley said. “This bill will strengthen protection of the Rogue’s natural heritage, protect key species, including salmon and steelhead, and bring increased tourism and economic activity to the region.”

The Rogue Wilderness Area Expansion Act of 2011 adds 60,000 new acres of wilderness to the existing Wild Rogue Wilderness area, home to the popular stretch of the Rogue that goes by the historic cabin of western author Zane Grey. It will protect the habitats of bald eagle, osprey, spotted owl, bear, elk and cougar. The Rogue River is one largest salmon fisheries in Oregon and one of the few rivers in the nation that is a natural spawning ground for green sturgeon. The protection of the tributaries feeding into the Rogue will protect those spawning grounds as well as those of coho, Chinook, and steelhead.

Protecting the Rogue River has the support of over 100 local and regional businesses and organizations. The Rogue is a hub for outdoor recreation drawing thousands of visitors from around the world and it is one of Oregon’s most important sport and commercial fisheries supporting roughly 450 jobs in nearby communities.