Wilderness, a casualty of partisan politics
Senate hearings for Oregon Wilderness legislation postponed in rancorous post-health care Congress.
The national conservation group Campaign for America's Wilderness has a great tagline: "Wilderness -- Our Common Ground."
Of course, in a very real sense, our public wildlands are the common ground we all own together. They are the places where we hike, raft, ride horses, camp, learn how to fish, and more. They are places we have enjoyed and revered for generations past and the natural treasures we hope to pass on to future generations.
But, more than that, they still represent special places that we can all love no matter where we fall on the political spectrum. A fiscally conservative fisherman from Lake Oswego can love a prized Deschutes River fishing hole just as much as a self-identified communist from Corvallis. A preacher from Pendleton can see God's work in a towering ancient forest while an atheist from Amity sees evolution at work.
You don't have to be a Republican or a Democrat (or anything else!) to love Oregon's wildlands and want to protect them.
That's why it was quite the bummer last week when partisanship stood in the way of public lands preservation.
Our friends over at the Oregon Natural Desert Association have been working hard to put together a common sense proposal to protect pristine areas along the iconic John Day River. The 16,000-acre proposal (actually two separate areas lumped into one bill) would protect Cathedral Rock, a familiar sight to anyone who has floated the John Day.
An impressive array of groups is aligned in support of the proposal, including the Redmond Chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association and Young Life Christian youth organization. Charging ahead with the momentum created by this coalition, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley introduced the Wilderness proposal earlier this year.
The diverse support for the legislation made it all the more disheartening when Republican Senators blocked a scheduled hearing last week. Blocking the hearing had nothing to do with the contents of the bill. It was strictly political payback for passing the health care legislation.
Hopefully, common sense preservation can trump politics in the coming months and wildland gems like Cathedral Rock, Horse Heaven, Devil's Staircase, and the Wild Rogue will be protected as Wilderness by year's end.