Moving forward on the Mt. Hood Wilderness

By Erik Fernandez of Portland, Oregon. Erik is the wilderness coordinator for Oregon Wild, preserving Oregon's wild lands, waters and wildlife.

Winter is here, and for many Oregonians that means weekends filled with skiing and snowshoeing on Mount Hood, or simply taking in the scenic beauty of this Oregon icon. January is traditionally a prime month for winter recreation, but this year it will take on extra significance. January of 2007 is the month that thousands of Oregonians who value wildlands, wildlife, and clean water want to see Congress act to pass legislation to protect more of Mount Hood and the Columbia Gorge as Wilderness.

Over the last several years, Oregon's Congressional delegation has worked hard to craft a plan to protect unspoiled wild areas as Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers. Our Senators and Representatives deserve the praise and support of all Oregonians for their efforts.

Wilderness is the strongest and most effective protection that we can give to our public lands. It ensures that Americans will forever enjoy freedom and solitude through hiking, camping, boating, hunting, and fishing in a pristine setting. Wilderness protection safeguards our last wildlands from logging, mining, and other destructive development. Wild and Scenic Rivers designation gives similar protection to our waterways, protecting clean water, habitat for salmon and trout, and opportunities to enjoy rafting and fishing.

In July of 2006, Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat, reached across the political aisle to work with Representative Greg Walden, a Republican, on the Mount Hood Stewardship Legacy Act. Similarly, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden joined with Republican Senator Gordon Smith to advance the Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act. While these two plans differed on details, both were built upon the understanding that the pristine forests, rivers, and lakes of Mount Hood and the Columbia Gorge are an important part of what makes Oregon such a special place to live, work, and raise a family.

Unfortunately, time ran out on Mount Hood Wilderness in 2006. But now Oregonians who love Mount Hood and the Columbia Gorge are looking to our elected officials to act quickly on a strong Wilderness plan in 2007.

By acting quickly to pass Wilderness legislation, we can protect special places like the 1000-year old cedar groves of Big Bottom along the Clackamas River, the scenic canyons of White River, and the beautiful wildlands of Cooper Spur from logging and development.

Quick action will also ensure that the rugged backcountry of the Roaring River watershed remains wild for our children and grandchildren, and that the old-growth forests surrounding Memaloose Lake and Larch Mountain are preserved from logging. And by working together, our elected officials can protect the valuable wildlife habitat of the Bull of the Woods Wilderness additions, the crystal-clear waters of Boulder Lake and the Collawash River, and the important migratory bird area of Bonney Butte, and the key salmon and steelhead spawning areas in Fifteenmile Creek and Salmon River Meadows as a legacy for future generations.

The good news is that Oregon's Congressional delegation has already laid the groundwork for this important legislation. And the new Congress presents a remarkable opportunity to forge ahead with Wilderness protection for Mount Hood and other scenic Oregon gems. Representative Richard Pombo, a notoriously anti-environmental and anti-wilderness politician from California, stood in the way of passing strong Wilderness legislation in 2006. But Pombo lost his seat in the elections, clearing the path for quick action on Mount Hood in 2007.

The Oregon delegation should team up to pass a strong plan for Mount Hood Wilderness in 2007. By working together, and acting quickly, they can ensure we leave future generations with a legacy of pristine forests, unspoiled rivers, and clean water. What better way to ring in a New Year, and a new Congress?

Comments

  • Hoody (unverified)
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    Hopefully a legitimate appraisal of the Cooper Spur/Govt. Camp land swap is completed and used this time. Mt. Hood Meadows shouldn't be allowed to take the taxpayers to the cleaners and reap enormous profits off the bogus appraisal used in Blumenuer's bill.

  • James (unverified)
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    Maybe this time the Senators can actually get the Senate to take up and pass their bill...

  • Carol Voisin (unverified)
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    The Oregon Delegation does need to get a Mt. Hood Wilderness Bill passed. However, I agree with Hoody that there needs to be a legitimate appraisal of both properties - Cooper Spur and Government Camp. Walden was responsible for the illegitimate appraisal that leaves the Forest Service with an "outdated" ski resort and the developers with prime land for developing. He by the way received campaign contributions from Mt. Hood Meadows developers. Mr. Walden also didn't want to expand the area to be designated "wilderness area" to the Wyden/Smith dimensions, because he agreed with his friend Mr. Pombo that the area should not be expanded for a variety of non-environmental reasons. Let's see what Mr. Walden does now with a Democratic controlled House and Senate and his buddy Mr. Pombo gone. I'm on a Walden Watch!!

  • Jonesy (unverified)
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    Hopefully the Or delegation gets over the blame game they were playing at the end of the last session and passes a bill. It's what Oregonians want.

  • Carol Voisin (unverified)
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    Jonesy, the Oregon Delegation weren't "blaming". They were doing everything to be "accountable" and to hold others accountable. If a representative like Walden is willing to let the Mt. Hood Wilderness bill fail because of a land exchange that rips off the public (us), then he needs to be held accountable and "watched" and "challenged". Meanwhile, we continue to support and to expedite the passage of the bill with a legitimate appraisal of both properties.

  • James (unverified)
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    Carol - what was Walden doing that was different that what Blumenauer was doing or are they both crooks?

    As I see it, they passed a bill in the House, asked the Senate to pass a bill, and were so willing to compromise that they said they'd try to pass anything through the House that the Senate could pass, with or without the land exchange to prevent development in sensitive areas of Mt. Hood (even though the Senate bill included the land exchange, as well).

  • Carol Voisin (unverified)
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    James, My understanding is that Walden was responsibile for the land exchange not Blumenauer. A forestry official called the appraisal to Walden's attention and he did nothing about it. The land exchange needs to be done right. Wyden has come forth with that statement. It should have been done right in the first place. The fact that it wasn't and that there has been no accountability for it, is wrong. Walden jeopardized the bill. We need to be sure that he doesn't do it again! Walden wasn't willing to change the wilderness acreage to the Wyden/Smith bill. My point is - we need to watch him.

  • Hoody (unverified)
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    If I am not mistaken both Walden and Blumenauer took contributions from Mt. Hood Meadows executives and they both had their fingerprints all over the illegitimate land trade proposed in the House bill.

    Thank goodness Senators Wyden and Smith didn't concur with this taxpayer rip-off. Earl's hands are just as dirty as Walden's on this one.

  • Jonesy (unverified)
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    The house vs senate discussion doesn't bring us any closer to getting the job done. The delegation just needs to sit down together and work out the final details on what will make the legislation work for them and for Oregonians. What we need from the delegation is the famed "Oregon solution" - a plan that protects as much Wilderness as possible, that protects tax payers, and completes some creatively fair version of the Cooper Spur land trade.

  • john (unverified)
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    <h2>Walden is a dunder-head. God pray for Oregon if he is ever elected to a statewide office.</h2>
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