Friday, February 15, 2013

Senators Wyden and Merkley re-introduce Chetco River bill

Steelhead fishing on the Chetco (Tim Palmer photo)
On February 14, Senators Wyden and Merkley re-introduced the Chetco River protection bill into the new Congress as part of their new Oregon Treasures Act.

Please send a note to Senators Wyden and Merkley to thank them and to encourage them to press forward with this important conservation legislation.

The name of the act says it all; these truly are Oregon Treasures. For more information on how to send letters, go to the how to help page.

Along with the Chetco, the Oregon Treasures Act will include expanded protections for the Rogue River, the Mollala River, and two areas on the John Day —Horse Heaven and Cathedral Rocks. Bills for all of these areas have already had hearings in the previous Congress.

The Eugene Register-Guard editorialized in favor of the Oregon Treasures Act, underscoring the fact that Oregon has far fewer protected areas than other states and that the bill's "benefits to the state’s recreation industry would offset any loss of revenue from logging or other development on public lands." The Register Guard also suggested that Senator Wyden's new position at the helm of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committe "could help win approval" for this package of well-vetted public lands bills.

The lands addressed in these bills are among Oregon’s most pristine areas,” Senator Wyden said.
“These areas provide habitats to countless species of plants and animals, economic benefits to surrounding communities and recreational opportunities for Oregonians and visitors throughout the nation."Senator Merkley and I will continue working with our colleagues to do all that we can to preserve these areas for generations to come.”
“Oregon’s wilderness contains some of the most beautiful land in America,” Senator Merkley said. “These bills are an important step toward protecting some of our most treasured areas and making sure that surrounding communities have the healthy salmon, steelhead and trout runs, recreation, and tourism for their local economies that they depend on.”
Here's the description of the Chetco part of the bill from the Senators' press release fact sheet:
"Identified by American Rivers as one of the nation’s most endangered rivers, the Chetco River is home to salmon and steelhead breeding grounds. The process of suction dredge mining can be very hazardous to the river’s ecosystem and threatens those breeding grounds. The bill permanently raises the federal protection levels along more than three miles of the Chetco and puts in place new prohibitions on future mining that will preserve the portions of the river designated Wild and Scenic. The bill also requires current mining claims to undergo a rigorous validation process in order to remain in place. In 2010, the Obama administration green-lighted a process that allows the Forest Service to put a freeze on all future mining claims along a portion of the river. That action and the legislation put forward today will protect the Chetco from invasive mining practices permitted under an 1872 law."