May 27, 2008

Wyden announces wilderness legislation for Badlands in Deschutes County

Bend, Ore. - Oregon Senator Ron Wyden announced today that he will introduce legislation to declare the 30,000-acre Badlands area east of Bend as wilderness.

"After years of increasing interest and excitement about protecting this beautiful place, I am ready to introduce the legislation necessary to create the 30,000-acre Oregon Badlands Wilderness," Wyden told a crowd of local residents during a visit to the Badlands. "It will tell the world that Central Oregon is a place with an unbelievable menu of recreation, where you can ski in the morning on one side of town and enjoy the solitude of high desert wilderness in the afternoon on the other."

The Badlands's 30,000 acres, located 15 miles east of Bend, contains lava flows and ancient junipers. This area was named for its harsh terrain and fantastic rock formations. Wyden said the wilderness bill will be officially introduced when he returns to Washington, D.C.

Wyden noted that the Badlands is where Rachel Scdoris, a legally blind Central Oregon resident, trained for three Iditarod sled dog races. "This designation is in many ways a tribute to this remarkable young woman who grew up driving and training her sled dog team through this area - and will continue doing so under my bill, for as long as she chooses," Wyden said.

Wyden's wilderness bill will closely follow the boundary of the Bureau of Land Management's Wilderness Study Area (WSA), plus several hundred acres acquired in two land exchanges, including one with the Central Oregon Irrigation District. The BLM's current practice of keeping the area off limits to motorized recreation would continue under a wilderness designation. Approximately 450,000 acres adjacent to the Badlands will continue to be available for off road vehicle recreation.

"Thousands of Central Oregonians and over two hundred local businesses have made it clear that the time is now to permanently protect the Badlands,"
said Brent Fenty, executive director of the Oregon Natural Desert Association, "Badlands Wilderness will be good for our economy, our quality of life and ensures that current and future generations can continue to experience a High Desert gem right in Bend's backyard."