September 22, 2006

Wyden introduces Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act of 2004

Senators bill will permanently protect recreational and scenic areas on Mount Hood and in the Columbia Gorge from future development

Washington, DC Following several public forums and months of public review and discussion, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden today formally introduced the Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act of 2004. Wyden first floated his draft proposal to designate additional wilderness in the Columbia River Gorge and in areas surrounding Mount Hood, as well as to designate several river segments under the Wild and Scenic River System, in late March.With millions of current visitors to Mount Hood and the Columbia Gorge, and millions more to come, it is time protect these cherished lands and prepare for our future, before we love the mountain to death Wyden said. Throughout the public comment period, I have been stunned by the overwhelming outpouring of support for preserving the beauty and legacy of Mount Hood and the Columbia Gorge for future generations.The legislation includes several improvements over the original proposal, attributable to the extensive public input. These changes include:Additional wildernessThrough public testimony and comments, a large number of people asked that areas around Roaring River be added to the wilderness proposal. The bill includes this area as part of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness additions (see below).Mountain biking pilot project and more trailsBecause of Oregons increasing popularity with mountain bikers, a number of biking enthusiasts expressed concern that their recreation opportunities would be curtailed through a wilderness designation. This bill proposes a pilot projectthe Hood Pedaler's Demonstration Experiment (Hood-PDX)that creates the nations first mountain bike area to be managed as wilderness. The pilot would run for 10 years, during which time Congress could make the designation permanent. The pilot will apply to approx. 13,131 acres around Shellrock Mountain, Hell Roaring Creek and Fifteenmile Creek. Additionally, the new bill made boundary adjustments requested by the mountain biking community to keep approx. 144 miles of trails open in the Mount Hood National Forest.Fire safe community zonesSeveral comments from people living in towns on the mountain and in the gorge expressed concern about fire protection for their communities. As a result, the bill adds a buffer zone so that communities like Cascade Locks and Government Camp can take steps to protect themselves from forest fires.Mount Hood National Forest thinningDue to concerns about forest health and commercial logging, the bill includes protections for old growth trees, which are the most resistant to fire and disease, while directing the Forest Service to aggressively thin the over-crowded, plantation second-growth areas. The bill specifically authorizes funding for this activity and includes an explicit preference for local contractors from Clackamas, Hood River and Wasco counties.Mount Hood National Forest Southside Winter Recreation AreaThe bill recognizes the key need for developed recreation, like skiing, on Mount Hood by encompassing those areas on the south side that have been developed for commercial recreation in a designated Mount Hood National Forest Southside Winter Recreation Area. In addition, the bill includes a fee-retention provision that will bring permit fees back to the mountain to help fund recreation-related Forest Service management.National Commission on Urban ForestsRecognizing the unique circumstances faced by urban forests (those within 50 miles of one million or more people), the bill creates a commission to study urban forests unique challenges and report to Congress with recommendations for future management practices.Four months ago, I asked Oregonians to participate in developing legislation to plan for the future of Mount Hood and the Columbia Gorge, and they spoke in astonishing numbers and with great knowledge, pride and concern for our Oregon treasures, Wyden said. I listened to their voices, and this bill is one that they truly helped write.The wilderness areas included in the legislation are:Mount Hood Wilderness additions (now approx. 56,515 acres)These additions include very popular recreation areas; large cathedral old growth forests; scenic viewsheds; the oldest alpine structure in the U.S.; important habitat for deer and elk; historic lava beds; and a critical watershed for The Dalles. Included are the historic Tilly Jane trail, Lost Lake, and Mill Creek Buttes, the historic Barlow Pass and Bonney Butte, Twin Lakes, and the Lower White River.Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness additions (now approx. 34,650 acres)These additions include a viewshed of the Columbia Gorge; recreation areas; waterfalls (including the headwaters of Multnomah Falls); and wildlife habitat. McCall Point, renowned for unique species of wildflowers, is included.Badger Creek Wilderness additions (now approx. 17, 410 acres)These additions include the important transition zone between east and west side ecosystems, including old growth ponderosa pine, Douglas fir and western larch; key habitat for cutthroat trout and other wildlife; and popular recreation areas (particularly elk and deer hunting). Included are Lower Badger Creek/Jordan Creek, and Boulder Lake.Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness additions (now approx. 69,226 acres)These additions include popular recreation areas, a watershed for the City of Sandy; diverse wildlife; and viewsheds from many popular ski areas. Included are Alder Creek, Salmon River Meadows, Eagle Creek, Mirror Lake and Abbot Burn/Upper Salmon River Meadows. This area now also includes 36,000 acres of wilderness around Roaring River, which is a prized back country destination for hiking, camping, hunting, and fishing and includes habitat for bald eagle, osprey, pileated woodpecker, badger, fisher and mink, and winter range habitat for Roosevelt elk and black tailed deer. The river is home to coho salmon, spring chinook salmon, winter and summer steelhead, resident cutthroat trout, and coastal rainbow trout.The river stretches proposed for addition to the National Wild and Scenic River System include four previously proposed, plus Fifteenmile Creek:East Fork Hood River (14.9 miles)This stretch contains highly scenic and picturesque views; popular trails to waterfalls; and steelhead and coho salmon habitat.Middle Fork Hood River (4.7 miles)This stretch contains one of a kind lava flows with unique vegetation; salmon, steelhead and bull trout habitat; and high quality riparian areas.Zigzag River (9 miles)This stretch includes the historic Barlow Road and 1930s CCC campgrounds and structures; habitat for spring chinook, coho salmon, summer and winter steelhead and resident cutthroat trout.Eagle Creek (8.3 miles)This stretch includes prime and diverse habitat for numerous species of fish and wildlife (including resident cutthroat and rainbow trout); popular areas for dispersed camping and hiking; and pristine water quality.?Fifteenmile Creek (11 miles)This stretch includes old growth ponderosa pine forests, the easternmost stock of wild winter steelhead in the Columbia River basin, and habitat for diverse bird species, including bald eagles.A wilderness designation and additional protections for these rivers will provide real safeguards for the quality of life that we, as Oregonians, are so proud of, Wyden said.The Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act of 2004 will likely be referred to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, of which Wyden is a member.