Sen. Wyden Takes First Step Toward Balance for O&C Lands

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On Tuesday, November 26, 2013 Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) released his long awaited draft legislation on the Oregon and California (O&C) Lands issues.  We applaud the Senator for his leadership on this issue and for working so hard to find a balanced approach to this long-standing debate.  The bill, while not perfect, strives to balance conservation and timber interests and creates a road map that with some additions and changes could finally put more rural Oregonians to work in our forest while protecting our clean drinking water and wild places.

In his bill, Senator Wyden safeguards clean drinking water sources and habitat for wild salmon by creating new drinking water protection areas, legislatively protecting Key Watersheds and maintaining effective riparian buffers.  The bill also protects more than 1 million acres of forested lands through a variety of special designations. Wyden’s legislation:

  • Permanently protects approximately 700,000 acres of ancient forests;
  • Creates two new  wilderness areas – the Wild Rogue and Devil’s Staircase – totaling more than 88,000 acres:
  • Designates approximately 200 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers;
  • Creates six new primitive areas in Southwest Oregon (totally more than 50,000 acres);
  • Expands – by  almost 6000 acres –  the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument;
  • Establishes two new National Recreation Areas – the Wild Rogue and the Mollala River;
  • Creates new statutory protection for more than 80 special areas of environmental concern equaling more than 90,000 acres;
  • Designates a salmon and botanical area in the Illinois Valley – known for both its rare and beautiful wild flowers as well as its elusive but magical steelhead trout;
  • Establishes new drinking water protection areas;  and
  • Creates a quarter- mile buffer on both sides of the Pacific Coast Trail as it goes through these lands.

It’s an impressive list.

At the same time, the Senator’s bill will increase timber harvest on these lands.  In fact, the measure will double current timber harvest coming from these lands; that’s a 100% increase in timber harvest.  The bill ensures this increase by cutting federal government red tape by requiring government officials to work together and to work together early to make decisions.  It also forces those wanting to challenge those decisions to do so quickly.  Again, it’s not perfect, but it will provide stable jobs for rural Oregonians.

On balance, the Senator’s legislation is a good step forward on this difficult and longstanding issue.  We believe there are still important aspects of the bill that need to be improved and we look forward to working with the Senator to make those changes prior to the bill’s passage. But it is fair to say that Ron Wyden has taken the balanced, thoughtful approach that Oregon needs for its O&C lands.

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