UPDATE, May 9, 2022: Congressman Blumenauer has introduced legislation for Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. Unfortunately most of the meaningful conservation was removed from what had been envisioned for most of the past ten years. Oregon Wild is opposed to the bill. This blog explains the current status and our rationale.
Mount Hood is Oregon's crown jewel, towering over the northern Oregon Cascade Mountains. The surrounding forests provide clean drinking water, critical wildlife habitat, and world class recreational opportunities. However, for too long we have taken the mountain for granted, and now it needs our help. It's time to do right by Mount Hood and the Gorge.
The current plan for managing the forests around Mount Hood was written in the 1980s (finalized in 1990), back when old-growth clear cut logging was the priority. We need a modern day plan that prioritizes clean water, recreation, and wildlife habitat. Mount Hood is simply too special to waste on clearcuts, mining, and grazing.
Increased Wilderness designations would safeguard the drinking water supply for the city of Sandy, Oregon as well as the community of Rhododendron. It would also safeguard key wildlife habitat near Boulder Lake and Salmon River.
These pristine landscapes are important sources of clean drinking water and recreational opportunities for people, but they're also necessary for wildlife to thrive. As climate change shifts our weather patterns it will create habitat challenges for wildlife. If protected, these Wilderness reserves will help support resiliency and much needed habitat as key species adapt and migrate in a changing climate.
Congress Considers new Legislation for Mount Hood
Congressman Blumenauer and Senator Wyden released a draft set of legislative concepts in late 2021 (including a map). They also held a public comment period to collect feedback on those concepts. Over 1,000 comments were received. This was the 2nd comment period they've held in recent years and was in addition to the multiple stakeholder meetings they've held on the subject over the past ten years. Their draft includes:
- New Wilderness designations, 29,000 acres (the gold standard for public lands designations)
- Expanded Mount Hood National Recreation Area, 350,000 acres
- Wild & Scenic Rivers, 106 miles
- Protection corridor for the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail
- Equity based transportation and overcrowding solutions
- Gorge Towns to Trails
- Fire preparedness
- and more
Oregon Wild supports the draft legislative concepts. The Wilderness designations are the most meaningful conservation pieces for clean water, wildlife, and carbon storage. We are concerned that the National Recreation Area may end up having management loopholes large enough to drive log trucks through.
- Timeline of Mount Hood public process and conservation history (Mount Hood is richer in process than legislation)
- Map of the Mount Hood Wilderness proposal (2018) pdf
- Interactive map of Proposed Mount Hood Wilderness
- Maps and details on prior Wilderness protections for Mount Hood
- Bluegrass Ridge fact sheet
- Tamanawas Falls fact sheet
- Salmon River Key Hole page and hike
- Map of Mount Hood Region Congressional Protections by year
In April of 2009 President Obama signed into law Wilderness protections for parts of Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. While this historic accomplishment was a huge victory for conservation and quiet recreation, several key areas didn't make it into the final plan. It is vitally important that places like Boulder Lake and the Salmon River receive the protection they deserve if we are to establish a lasting legacy for Mount Hood.