Earlier today, Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley’s bill to protect portions of public lands in the Molalla and Rogue River watersheds, as well as over 100,000 acres of the Kalmiopsis region in Southwest Oregon from mining was favorably reported by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and is now ready for consideration by the full Senate.
Trout Unlimited and Wild Steelheaders United applaud Senators Wyden and Merkley, as well as ENR committee chair Lisa Murkowski (R- Alaska) and Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) for taking up this bill. Earlier this week, TU sent a letter to the Senate ENR committee in support of the ORE Act, which you can read here.
If passed, the Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act would establish a 98,000-acre recreation area on the Rogue River and expand the existing Wild Rogue Wilderness Area by 60,000 acres, establish a 30,000-acre recreation area on the banks of the Molalla River in Clackamas County next to the Table Rock Wilderness Area, and permanently prevent mining on more than 101,000 acres of Forest Service land near the existing Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area. All of these provisions were included in the Oregon Wildlands Act, which passed in February 2019 as part of the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, but were dropped out of the bill before passage.
All three of the regions protected in the ORE Act, the Rogue, Molalla, and Kalmiopsis represent some of the last best remaining places for salmon, trout, and steelhead, and also provide hunting opportunity for blacktail deer, Roosevelt elk, black bears, ruffed grouse, and a number of other species. The Rogue boasts robust runs of both summer and winter steelhead, as well as Chinook and Coho salmon. The Molalla provides some of the best habitat for ESA-listed Willamette Basin winter steelhead. The Kalmiopsis is home to some of the most diverse plant species in Oregon and includes coastal streams with strong runs of wild steelhead and salmon.
For more than a decade TU has worked with other fishing and conservation groups to protect salmon and steelhead streams in Oregon from mining and other types of resource development that could harm legendary fisheries such as the Rogue and Molalla Rivers, and those found in the Kalmiopsis region. We will continue working in the watersheds we know and love here in Oregon, and we appreciate the Senate ENR committee considering the protections afforded in the Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act for some of our favorite places to hunt, fish, and explore. We thank Senators Wyden and Merkley for their leadership and for everything they’re doing to ensure a bright future for the fish, wildlife, and recreational opportunities which help define our region.