June 18, 2008

Wyden Seeks Greater Protection for Rogue River and Oregon Caves Monument

Senator also commends House for introducing Mt. Hood legislation

Washington, D.C. - Working to ensure that the natural beauty of Oregon is perpetually protected, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced two separate pieces of legislation today to extend Wild and Scenic River protections to waters that feed the lower Rogue River and to expand the boundary of the Oregon Caves National Monument. Companion legislation is being introduced today in the House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Darlene Hooley (D-Ore.) and David Wu (D-Ore.).

"Protecting Oregon's special places sometimes means you have to protect the surrounding land and waterways that affect them. You can't keep the Rogue pure and wild if the waters that feed it aren't - and you can't protect the underground parts of the Oregon Caves unless you take care of the land above and around them," said Wyden.

The Lower Rogue Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 2008 will extend the protection of Wild and Scenic Rivers designation beyond the Rogue River itself to waterways that feed the river, including Galice Creek, Little Windy Creek, Jenny Creek, Long Gulch and 36 other tributaries of the Rogue. In 2008, American Rivers named the Rogue River and its tributaries as the second most endangered river in the U.S. Wyden's proposal would help address the issues threatening the Rogue by protecting 143 miles of Wild and Scenic tributaries that feed the river with cold, clean water.

The Rogue River is one of our nation's premier recreation destinations, famous for its free flowing waters, which provide a wealth of rafting and fishing opportunities. The river's headwaters start in one of Oregon's other great gems - Crater Lake National Park - and ultimately empty into the Pacific Ocean near Gold Beach on the Southwest Oregon coast. The Rogue River is home to runs of coho, spring and fall chinook, winter and summer steelhead - and it has the special distinction of being one of only several rivers in the country with runs of green sturgeon.

The Oregon Caves National Monument Boundary Adjustment Act of 2008 will protect the majesty of the natural treasures both above and under the ground at the National Monument. The bill would expand the Monument boundary by 4,084 acres to include the entire Cave Creek Watershed, management of which would be transferred from the United States Forest Service to the National Park Service. In addition, the bill would designate at least 9.6 miles of rivers and tributaries as Wild, Scenic, or Recreational under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, including the first subterranean Wild and Scenic River, an underground portion of Cave Creek known as the River Styx.

Established by a Presidential Proclamation in 1909, the Oregon Caves National Monument is a 480-acre natural wonder located in the botanically rich Siskiyou Mountains. It was originally set aside because of its unusual scientific interest and importance. The cave ecosystem provides habitat for numerous plants and animals, including some state-sensitive species such as Townsend's big-eared bats and several cave-adapted species of arthropods found only in the Oregon Caves and nowhere else. The caves possess a significant collection of Pleistocene aged fossils, including jaguar and grizzly bear. The National Park Service has formally proposed a boundary modification numerous times, first in 1939, again in 1949, and most recently in 2000.

Wyden also praised his Oregon colleagues in the House for today introducing companion legislation to S. 647, the Wyden-Smith legislation creating 128,000 additional acres of wilderness around Mt. Hood. The Senate is prepared to include Mt. Hood Wilderness in the next package of lands bills it will move once the house signals its acceptance of the Mt. Hood Wilderness legislation. "I want to thank my House colleagues for coming through today for Mt. Hood," said Wyden. "With a little luck, we can finally get this bill done and move onto the many remaining lands issues facing Oregon."

Maps of the areas affected by the bills introduced today can be found at: http://wyden.senate.gov/newsroom/0608oregon_caves_expansion.pdf
http://wyden.senate.gov/newsroom/0608rogue_proposed_additions.pdf .

Senator Wyden chairs the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests, with primary jurisdiction over wilderness legislation. Since becoming a U.S. Senator in 1996, he has championed Wilderness protection for 170,000 acres of Wilderness on Steens Mountain, 177,000 acres around Mt. Hood, 24,000 acres on Soda Mountain and nearly 14,000 acres in the Copper Salmon area.