FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mount Hood Wilderness Protection Here at Long Last
Oregon Wild celebrates decade of hard work, 202,000 acres of new Oregon Wilderness
Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 clears Congress, assuring Wilderness protection for five new areas.Portland, Ore Mar 25, 2009
In an historic vote, the U.S. House of Representatives today gave final approval to the largest Wilderness expansion in Oregon in 25 years. The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (H.R.146) grants the highest level of federal protection to Mount Hood, the Columbia River Gorge, and four other pristine areas across the state. Today’s overwhelming 285 to 140 vote caps weeks of back in forth in Congress.
“We first started drawing maps for these Wilderness areas ten years ago,” said Regna Merritt, Executive Director of the conservation group Oregon Wild. “The trail was tough, so I can’t tell you how exciting it is to reach the summit.”
“Wilderness designations are the gold standard for protecting Oregon’s natural areas” noted Erik Fernandez, Wilderness Coordinator for Oregon Wild. “Protected Wilderness areas provide Oregonians with clean drinking water, habitat for wildlife, recreational opportunities, and old-growth forests that help capture carbon from our air and slow global warming.”
In 1999, Oregon Wild launched a statewide Wilderness campaign, including portions of Mount Hood and the Columbia Gorge. In 2003 the Mount Hood proposal became the centerpiece. Following thousands of letters to Congress, dozens of public meetings, and countless hours in the field, today’s vote now preserves the forests and rivers surrounding Mount Hood and the Columbia Gorge for hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities that Oregonians cherish.
“Every year tens of thousands of people come to Oregon to enjoy our old-growth forests, wild rivers, and scenic vistas, and dozens of businesses relocate here to attract world-class employees,” added Steve Pedery, Conservation Director with Oregon Wild. “With the passage of this historic Wilderness bill today, we have taken a big step forward in protecting the values that make Oregon such a special place to live, work, and raise a family.”
The legislation passed today would protect 202,000 acres in Oregon as Wilderness. Also gaining Wilderness protection are Soda Mountain and Copper Salmon in southern Oregon and Badlands and Spring Basin in eastern Oregon. Currently only 3.7% of Oregon is protected as Wilderness compared to 14% in California, 11% in Washington and 7.5% in Idaho.
In the House today, Congressmen Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio were joined in supporting the bill by Republican Rep. Greg Walden—one of 38 Republicans supporting the bipartisan bill. In addition, Rep. David Wu and newly elected Rep. Kurt Schrader also cast votes in favor of the Omnibus bill. Before a vote on the bill last week, Senator Ron Wyden spoke on the Senate floor in support of all five Oregon Wilderness additions. In January, newly-elected Senator Jeff Merkley cast his first vote as a Senator in favor of the bill.