May 15, 2019

Wyden Continues the Fight to Boost Recreation and Preserve Wildfire Prevention Work in Southwestern Oregon and near Molalla River

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining holds hearing on Wyden’s Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., yesterday highlighted the importance of protecting and enhancing iconic recreation destinations in Southwestern Oregon and on the Molalla River in Clackamas County during a U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining hearing on Wyden’s Oregon Recreation Enhancement (ORE) Act.

Earlier this month, Wyden, who is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, and Sen. Jeff Merkley, together, introduced the ORE Act which would create the Rogue Canyon Recreation Area and the Molalla Recreation Area, expand the Wild Rogue Wilderness Area, and prohibit destructive mining on pristine rivers in Southwestern Oregon—all while preserving wildfire prevention work in both regions.

“This legislation builds on what I call the Oregon Way—our traditional conservation ethic that has been fundamental to the livability of my home state. The areas the legislation seek to protect are truly public treasures and should remain places to recreate for generations to come. That is why, based on local concerns, this bill also ensures that public land managers can do important, preemptive forest health and wildfire resiliency work within the recreation areas and wilderness expansion,” Wyden said during the hearing.

“I’ve heard all these stories about how you can’t protect special places in the West because all you’re doing is giving short shrift to the effort to deal with fire. Nothing could be further from the truth. This committee led the effort on trailblazing approaches like ending fire borrowing, and the list goes on and on. This legislation protects special places and also makes it clear that we are all in for the fight against fire.”

Watch Wyden’s remarks at the hearing here.

The ORE Act would make the following three designations:

  • Molalla Recreation Area: Establish a 30,000-acre recreation area on the banks of the Molalla River in Clackamas County next to the Table Rock Wilderness Area.
  • Rogue Canyon Recreation Area: Establish a 98,000-acre recreation area on the banks of the Rogue River in Southwestern Oregon next to the Wild Rogue Wilderness Area.
  • Wild Rogue Wilderness Expansion: Expand the existing Wild Rogue Wilderness Area by about 60,000 acres. The federal land included within this expansion has been set aside by federal land managers as land that should be protected and conserved.

Each of these three proposed recreation and wilderness designations would allow current forest management, forest health, wildfire resiliency and other wildfire prevention strategies to continue.

The ORE Act also would permanently prevent mining on more than 100,000 acres of Forest Service land near the existing Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area. These areas are located at the headwaters of several National Wild and Scenic Rivers, and support clean drinking water for thousands of Oregonians. After much public input and local consensus, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management issued a 20-year mineral withdrawal for this area in 2017. 

The wildfire protections proposed in the ORE Act build on recently enacted wildfire legislation that included passage of the bipartisan bill eliminating federal agencies’ flawed practice of borrowing from wildfire prevention funds; urging the Forest Service to develop a plan addressing the hazardous fuels backlog in the woods; and working to secure $7 million to train National Guard members to fight wildfires.