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To save the Rogue River, its wilderness area must be expanded

Two small business owners describe the importance of protecting the lands around the Wild Rogue as Wilderness.

By Todd Weck and Chris Daughters
Eugene Register-Guard

The Rogue River is one of the last places in Oregon to catch wild fish in a wild environment. As business owners who depend on tourism and recreation in Southern Oregon, we are concerned about threats to the wild and scenic section of the river.

The agencies that manage public land and water should be managing the land to preserve the wild and scenic qualities of the region. Today, only part of the lower Rogue’s watershed is protected, leaving a large adjacent roadless area open to commercial logging, mining and road-building. With each timber sale and new road, the roadless area shrinks, and valuable habitat is degraded. Now is the time to protect wild areas and free-flowing streams by urging Congress to expand the Wild Rogue Wilderness Area.

Our clients from all over the country say it is unbelievable to look in every direction and not see a clear-cut. It is one of the last places in Oregon that is truly untouched from logging as far as the eye can see. If timber companies log the roadless areas adjacent to the scenic section of the Rogue River Valley, what will a hiker on the trail or passenger in a boat be looking at on the horizon? Clear-cuts.

We also want to see it protected because of the potential problem clear-cuts pose to the spawning tributaries for cold-water fish such as salmon and steelhead. Slash-and-burn logging practices along these sensitive tributaries have the potential to raise stream temperatures and bury eggs in sediment.

The roadless country in the Wild Rogue proposal area would be affected greatly by the Bureau of Land Management’s pending Western Oregon Plan Revision, which proposes drastic increases in old growth logging across 2.5 million acres of BLM forests in Western Oregon.

Some of the lower Rogue’s roadless lands would be turned into timber management areas designated for clear-cut logging. The fate of the Wild Rogue today lies in the hands of the BLM. With the current WOPR proposal, this is all the more reason for Oregon’s elected officials to advance wilderness and wild and scenic designations in this globally renowned canyon.

Let’s face it, hatchery fish are not able to replace native fish, and wild fish matter to our clients. There aren’t enough fish as it is. We have to do what we can, and protecting this river is one of the things we can do. We need to protect these fisheries to ensure their survival for the future.

On Nov. 20, The Register-Guard reported on the low returns for fall chinook salmon; fishing has been below average all along the Oregon Coast. But the Rogue was hit especially hard. Guides have claimed this has been the worst fall fishing in 30 years on the Rogue River.

The spring run earlier this year was even worse. The (Medford) Mail Tribune reported only 7,530 spring chinook were counted over Gold Ray Dam through June 22. “There were barely enough salmon around this spring to energize the river and its anglers,” the newspaper reported.

Fishing outfitters have the most to lose, but we’re a small percentage of the people who rely on this fishery. Every business from Galice to Gold Beach is involved in the well-being of the Rogue, because every fish from the bay at the mouth of the Rogue on upriver has to pass through the wild and scenic section.

We already may be facing the demise of the Rogue River fisheries. If you don’t have the scenery, what do you have? A canal.

It’s just not that hard to leave it alone.

Todd Weck of Eugene is the owner of Rogue Canyon Outfitters and holds one of the oldest operating permits on the river. Chris Daughters is owner of The Caddis Fly shop in Eugene. Weck and Daughters support the conservation coalition

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