November 10, 2011

Wyden/Merkley Devil’s Staircase and Oregon Caves Bills Passed by Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Washington, D.C. – Efforts to preserve some of Oregon’s most pristine and valued natural resources moved closer to success today as two bills protecting Oregon’s Devil’s Staircase and Oregon Caves cleared the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) the passage of these two bills by the committee clears the way for their consideration by the full Senate.

 “Devil’s Staircase is rugged, wild, pristine and remote and Oregon Caves has stunning majesty above and below ground. This makes them both examples of some of Oregon’s most prized possessions,” Wyden said. “I am grateful to the committee for recognizing what Oregonians already know – that these areas need to be protected for future generations to enjoy.”

“Oregon’s wilderness is home to some of our nation’s greatest natural treasures,” said Merkley. “Today’s committee passage of these bills is an important step toward preserving Oregon Caves and the Devil’s Staircase for visitors, future generations of Oregonians, and the communities that depend on healthy salmon, steelhead and trout runs, recreation, and tourism for their local economies.”

The Devil’s Staircase Staircase Wilderness Act designates approximately 30,500 acres of the Siuslaw National Forest as a wilderness area – the highest protection that can be granted to land -- and protects roughly 14 miles of the Wasson and Franklin Creeks. The Wilderness designation will preserve native coho and chinook salmon, trout, and steelhead runs as well as protect the habitats of wildlife like the black bear, elk, and river otter.

 The Oregon Caves Revitalization Act expands the boundaries of the century-old National Monument by transferring roughly 4,000 acres from the US Forest Service to the National Park Service and designating the land as a National Preserve – ensuring hunters can still utilize the land. Setting aside this additional land will increase tourism to the largest marble cave open to the public west of the Continental Divide and encourage ecological forest restoration. The legislation also gives a Wild & Scenic designation to the River Styx that travels through the caves, the nation’s first such distinction for an underground waterway.