Senator Wyden Reintroduces His O&C Lands Legislation

Friday, January 09, 2015

The writer Dorothea Brande once said, Act as if it were impossible to fail.

Clearly, Oregon's senior Senator has a similar mantra.  After bringing his O&C lands bill close to passage last year, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) picked up where he left off and reintroduced his bill the very first week of this new Congress. While not a perfect measure for either conservationists or timber interests, S.132 is a balanced and reasonable approach to an issue that has troubled Oregon for decades.  The bill protects over 1.5 million acres of some of the states most wild and ecologically important ancient forests while at the same time increasing current harvest levels.  Senator Wyden's commitment to getting this bill enacted exemplifies how a true statesman can find compromise amongst diverse interests to help bring both economic and environmental prosperity to his state.

"Senator Wyden's O&C bill will increase harvests and improve forest health while increasing protections for some of our most cherished places in Oregon," Senator Jeff Merkley said in a statement.

Protecting Public Land

The land protections in this bill are varied and numerous. They include:

  • Two wilderness areas - the Wild Rogue and Devil's Staircase.
  • Two recreation areas, the Rogue National Recreation Area (NRA) which encircles the Wild Rogue Wilderness, and the Molalla River NRA -- a haven for fishermen and boaters alike. 
  • Seven Primitive Backcountry Areas totaling 52,300 acres of ecological gems.
  • Protective Environmental Zones, all current and prospective agency identified areas of critical environmental concern, totaling almost 96,000 acres.
  • Perhaps most impressive, the bill safeguards more than 600,000 acres of ancient forests,  defining these legacy forests as all ¼ acre or greater stands with trees 85 years and older. 

These are just a few of the more than 25 separate land protection designations in the bill.

Safeguarding Clean Water

S. 132 also safeguards critical water sources. The O&C lands supply clean drinking water for nearly 2 million Oregonians. 

  • The bill legislates the Northwest Forest Plan’s Aquatic Conservation Strategy, a plan that has improved water quality throughout these forests. 
  • More than 250 miles of our majestic and wild rivers – including tributaries of the Rogue, the Nestucca, and the Umpqua – would be safeguarded as Wild and Scenic Rivers, and special drinking water areas would be created for Eugene, Clackamas, Springfield, and other communities. 
  • New protections for some of western Oregon's greatest salmon and steelhead rivers and streams are also part of this legislation. From the Frank Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary in the North Umpqua Valley in the east, to the Illinois Valley Salmon and Botanical Special Management Unit in the south, to the Kiltches Wild Salmon Preserve in the northwestern part of the state, Senator Wyden's bill ensures the protection of wild salmon and steelhead and the clean, cool waters that they call home.

Sustaining Local Communities

Our rural communities will benefit from the jobs created by this bill through growth in the outdoor recreation and timber industries. In fact, the bill will more than double timber production on these lands through a more ecologically-friendly management approach than currently allowed under the Northwest Forest Plan. It's a clear win for Oregonians, and an opportunity that Congress shouldn’t let pass.

We urge our House members, both Republican and Democrat, to follow Senator Wyden's lead and ensure Oregonians can both play and prosper in our forests.

Act as if it were impossible to fail.  Our rural communities and future generations are counting on it.

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