April 18, 2006
PORT ORFORD, Ore.-Trout Unlimited will host a telephone press conference on Thursday at 10 a.m. to announce an effort by local politicians, business leaders and sportsmen to designate the Copper-Salmon area of southwest Oregon as federal wilderness.
The Copper-Salmon area comprises 12,000 acres of pristine forestland and includes the Elk River drainage, which is home to some of the state's healthiest steelhead and salmon runs. Additionally, the ecologically rich region is home to vibrant populations of black-tailed deer, black bear and mountain lion. Roosevelt elk also use some of the region for thermal cover.
"This area is one of the last, unspoiled places in Oregon where hunters and anglers can experience first-hand what our state was like hundreds of years ago," said sportsman Jim Rogers, a former timber company forester and the chairman of the Curry County Planning Commission. "The old-growth trees, the cold, clean water and the wildlife all combine to make the Copper-Salmon area a very special place. We hope to keep it like it is, but in order to do that, we have to protect it."
David Smith, a restaurant owner in Port Orford and the president of the Port Orford Chamber of Commerce agrees with Rogers. The Copper-Salmon area, he said, is too valuable to leave unprotected.
"For years, our community has benefited from the money sportsmen and tourists have spent here on their visits to this wonderful area," Smith said. "A wilderness designation would protect this vital economic resource for our citizens for generations to come."
Jack Williams, Trout Unlimited's chief scientist, notes that wilderness designation for the Copper-Salmon is the best way to protect its old-growth forests and the wildlife that depend so heavily on the health of the firs and cedars of the region.
"These trees are what make the whole ecosystem work," Williams said. "They filter rain and snow runoff slowly, allowing the rivers and streams to run clean, even during the most torrential rain. That makes for excellent fish spawning habitat and for some very good fishing in the mainstem Elk."
The fishing, as well as the hunting opportunities in the area, is what interests Oregon's sportsmen. During the ongoing heavy rains Oregon is experiencing, the Elk River has hardly flinched while most of the region's other rivers that have seen surface disturbances in their headwaters from logging and road-building are running the color of chocolate milk.
"That's what's magical about this place," said Mark Kimball, owner of the Steelblue Chameleon Lodge on the Elk River. "It's so resilient to the weather that when most other rivers are unfishable, we can guide anglers on the Elk and get into fish just about any day during the season. It's an intact ecosystem that functions just as it should. My businesses and the quality of the fishing depend on things staying like they are now. If we can protect it for good, it will always support excellent fishing."
Rogers and Smith are planning to travel to Washington, D.C., later this month to formally request wilderness designation for the Copper-Salmon area. Both men, as well as TU's Williams, will be available to the media on Thursday during the TU press conference.
To participate in the press conference, please call (866) 740-1260. When prompted, enter the code 2849426#. You'll be placed into the conference, which begins at 10 a.m. (Pacific) sharp.