March 25, 2009
Mike Beagle, (541) 538-8655
Jim Rogers, (541) 332-2555
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Copper-Salmon Wilderness Act passes House
Sportsmen celebrate as Elk River headwaters gain permanent protection
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, the bill that contains the Copper-Salmon Wilderness Act that permanently protects about 14,000 acres in the headwaters of southern Oregon’s Elk River. The final vote in favor of the measure was 285-140.
“This is hugely important for Oregon’s sportsmen and women, and particularly for the fishing community in Port Orford that depends on the Elk River and its prized salmon and steelhead for economic subsistence,” said Mike Beagle, Trout Unlimited’s Oregon/Washington field coordinator based in Medford, Ore. “We are grateful to Sen. Wyden and Rep. DeFazio for their help in protecting one of the best remaining salmon and steelhead fisheries on the West Coast—they’ve done a huge favor for sportsmen, both today, and for generations to come.”
The Copper-Salmon Wilderness encompasses the largely undeveloped headwaters of the Elk River. Downstream, the Elk is one of the healthiest coastal rivers left in the state, and that’s due to the intact spawning and rearing habitat in its upstream reaches. The old-growth timber in the newly created wilderness provides shelter for migrating and spawning fish. Because of the healthy and intact headwaters, the lower river remains fishable, even in times of heavy rain.
“This is very significant for our community and for the anglers who come from all over the Northwest to experience the trophy fishing in the Elk River,” said Jim Rogers, a retired forester who lives in Port Orford. “I can’t think of a better way to protect this river in perpetuity—not only does this wilderness protect the river and the fishery, it protects our way of life. We’re so thankful to our delegation for sticking with us during this long and challenging effort to protect the Elk River.”
The omnibus act took a long, winding route through Congress. It was first considered—and passed—by the House in the fall of 2008, but things stalled in the Senate. In January, the bill passed the Senate, but failed to get the needed two-thirds majority in the House two weeks ago, when it was considered under suspension of rules. It went back to the Senate, where it was included as an amendment to a bill that had already passed the House—it passed the Senate last week with flying colors. Today’s vote in the House sends the bill to President Obama—once it gets the president’s signature, it will become the law of the land.
“To know that all the hard work that went into getting this bill written and then through Congress has finally paid off is very gratifying,” Beagle said. “This bill is a sportsmen’s bill through and through, and it proves that anglers and hunters have found their voice. We’re just grateful that the right people listened.”
Trout Unlimited is a private, non-profit organization with more than 140,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.