FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Devil’s Staircase Wilderness Passes Out of Senate Committee
Iconic Oregon Coast Range Forest Moves Closer to Permanent Protection
Conservationists celebrate important step towards permanent protections for rare, remote, pristine coastal rainforest wilderness.Washington, DC Nov 10, 2011
This morning the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources approved the creation of the nearly 30,000-acre Devil’s Staircase Wilderness in the central Oregon Coast Range. The bill now awaits a full Senate vote.
“I am delighted to see Devil's Staircase move closer toward the permanent protection it deserves,” says Kate Ritley, Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Protecting this spectacular coastal rainforest is an important step toward ensuring a vibrant, healthy future for Oregon's communities.”
The Devil’s Staircase area is named after a series of stair-step waterfalls carved into the sandstone bedrock of Wasson Creek, the main waterway that passes through the proposed Wilderness. The area’s spectacular old-growth rainforests are home to a host of endangered species, including Oregon coastal coho, marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl.
Conservation organizations have long sought Wilderness protection for this old-growth rainforest, beginning in the 1970s after federal logging proposals were planned in the area. Although originally considered in the 1984 Oregon Wilderness Act that protected nearby places in the Coast Range like Drift Creek and Cummins Creek, Devil’s Staircase ultimately was not included. A Wilderness designation is the gold standard of protection Congress can afford an area.
A renewed wilderness campaign launched in 2007 after the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that manages part of the proposal area, outlined plans to log in the Devil’s Staircase as part of a forest plan revision. The Siuslaw National Forest oversees management of the remainder of this remote area located 15 miles northeast of Reedsport and 40 miles southwest of Eugene.
On October 24, an identical bill successfully moved through the House Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing process. The effort has been championed in Congress by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).
Conservation organizations working on the effort to create the wilderness area expect the bill to continue to move through the Congressional process hoping for enactment before the 112th Congress expires in January.
“In a Congress that has been criticized for lack of action, we’re very hopeful at the progress we’ve seen in moving Devil’s Staircase protections forward,” added Erik Fernandez, Wilderness Coordinator with Oregon Wild. “It’s a testament to how popular this special place is with Oregonians.”
- Secretary Salazar’s cover letter for the recommendations
- Secretary Salazar’s backcountry recommendations
- More on the Devils Staircase Wilderness Proposal
Erik Fernandez, Oregon Wild, 503.283.6343 ext.202
Kate Ritley, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.337.6694