December 06, 2006

Wyden, Smith Propose More than 125,000 Acres for Wilderness Designation on Mount Hood and in Columbia River Gorge

Senators' plan also would add National Recreation Areasand nearly 80 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers

Portland, OR - More than two decades after the last wilderness areas were added to protect Mount Hood, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith today unveiled their bipartisan proposal to permanently protect more than 125,000 acres of wilderness on Mount Hood and in the Columbia River Gorge - an increase of almost 70 percent over existing wilderness protections. It also would grant Wild and Scenic River protections to an additional 79.8 miles of rivers in Oregon and create more than 18,000 acres of Mount Hood National Recreation Areas. The recreation areas would provide access for mountain biking and other diverse recreational opportunities, while allowing forest health projects to be completed where necessary.

"It's been 20 years since any additional wilderness protections have been added to protect Mount Hood, but development and usage of these areas have not stood still," Wyden said. "Many thousands of Oregonians have asked Congress to provide more wilderness to respond to these demands, and today we are answering their call."

"Oregonians love our state's natural beauty. They want to protect it and they want to enjoy it," Smith said. "I believe that when we seek balance, we find consensus and our success has come because we sought to protect Mount Hood the right way, and in a very bipartisan fashion."

In July, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill (H.R. 5025) that would designate approximately 77,000 acres as wilderness and approximately 25 miles of Wild and Scenic River protections in the Mount Hood National Forest.

While keeping the designations included in H.R. 5025 intact, Senators Wyden and Smith added significant protections for both the environment and recreation. These additions do not impact mountain bike or snowmobile trails, nor do they affect areas allocated for timber harvest under the Northwest Forest Plan. The Senators plan to introduce legislation when Congress returns to session in September.

Mount Hood

The areas the Senators propose to protect as wilderness include: Hunchback Mountain; Clackamas Canyon; Memaloose Lake; Mirror Lake; Sand Canyon; Sandy Additions; Inch Creek; Lower White River; Lost Lake; Larch Mountain; South Fork Clackamas; Twin Lakes, Barlow Butte, Bonnie Butte; White River; Badger Creek Additions; Salmon River Meadows; Sisi Butte; Upper Big Bottom; and Bull of the Woods.

The plan, released today by Senators Wyden and Smith, also contains areas contained in H.R. 5025 including: Roaring River; Eagle and Alder Creeks; Sandy River/Elk Cove/Mazama; Tilly Jane; Bull of the Woods; and the Columbia River Gorge.

Senators Wyden and Smith also propose granting Wild and Scenic River protections to an additional 79.8 miles of Oregon rivers -- a 47 percent increase to the Wild and Scenic River network on Mount Hood. Among the rivers slated for further safeguards are the picturesque waterfalls and glacial outwash of the East Fork of the Hood River and ancestral hunting and fishing traditions of Fish Creek. Over 17 miles of salmon and steelhead habitat on the Collowosh River are also included in the plan.

The proposal would also create a network of Mount Hood National Recreation Areas that include the Gumawjac Trail, Shellrock Mountain and Hellroaring Creek, along with the classic alpine aquamarine water at Boulder Lake, and the stately ponderosa pines of Fifteen Mile Creek. Oregon's newest National Recreation Areas would include mountain biking opportunities and other diverse recreational opportunities on 18,700 acres.

Wyden and Smith carefully reviewed land use issues in the region and identified three land exchanges that would benefit the public. Among them is the Cooper Spur land exchange that was the result of a consensus agreement between Mount Hood Meadows and Hood River Valley residents. Under the agreement, further development on Mount Hood will occur in areas that already posses the adequate infrastructure, such as Government Camp, rather than on the undeveloped northern side. The Senators will propose a mechanism for allowing this exchange to proceed in accordance with legally-required appraisal standards. The Senators also will seek three additional legislative safeguards for the public: 1) protection of wetlands at the Government Camp property; 2) protection of public trails at the Government Camp property; and 3) elimination of tax breaks should the appraisal find a difference in the land values to be exchanged. Similarly, exchanges at the Port of Cascade Locks and Clackamas County will fall within this proposal.

Senators Smith and Wyden also will introduce separate legislation dealing with grazing in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. This legislation, based on lengthy discussions between ranchers and conservationists, authorizes the permanent retirement of grazing allotments within the Monument. It would also designate approximately 23,000 acres of new wilderness with the borders of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.


Mount Hood Wilderness Proposal