Wyden, Merkley Land Swap Bill Will Preserve More Than 16,000 Acres as Wilderness
Legislation Will Create Two Wilderness Areas; Improve Young Life Christian Summer Camp at Former Site of Rajneeshpuram
Washington, D.C. - Building on last year's successful efforts to preserve more than 200,000 acres of Oregon lands as wilderness, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) have introduced legislation to preserve another 16,000 acres near Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven by swapping land with private landholders, including Christian-based summer camp, Young Life, which has rights to land once occupied by the followers of Baghwan Shree Rajneesh.
"Oregonians have a deep connection to their land," Wyden said. "This legislation will strengthen that relationship by creating two wilderness areas that will preserve these natural treasures for generations to come and will serve as a hopeful postscript to the saga of the Rajneeshee colony. It's a win for the land owners, a win for the many species of fish, plant and wildlife, and ultimately a win for all Oregonians."
"Many of my favorite memories growing up in Oregon were exploring our natural wilderness areas with my family," said Merkley. "This legislation builds upon the great tradition of preserving Oregon's most treasured places for our families and for the communities who depend on the tourism they attract."
Known as the Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven Wilderness Act of 2010, the legislation will allow the Bureau of Land Management to swap land with private local landowners in order to create two large tracts of land that can be preserved as wilderness. The proposed Cathedral Rock Wilderness Area is on the west side of the wild and scenic John Day River, across from the Spring Basin Wilderness was created as part of last year's public lands law.
Young Life's Washington Family Ranch currently owns the land that is the former location of the City of Rajneeshpuram, which was the home of Rajneeshee leader Baghwan Shree Rajneesh. The land now owned by Young Life is currently intermingled with swaths of BLM owned parcels. The Christian-based summer camp is one of three landowners that will swap land it owns adjacent to current BLM land in order to create two large swaths capable of being preserved.
The plan will improve public access and recreational opportunities, while also protecting many sensitive plant and animal species. The plan has won the endorsement of Wasco, Wheeler and Jefferson counties as well as local hunting, angling and boating interests.