Wild Steelheaders United and Trout Unlimited Applaud Introduction of Southwest Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act


July 27, 2023

Contact:           Dean Finnerty, manager, Trout Unlimited Wild Steelhead Initiative
                        (541) 214-064

REEDSPORT, Ore — Wild Steelheaders United and Trout Unlimited (TU) today applauded the introduction of the Southwest Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act (SOWSPA) in the 118th Congress by Rep. Val Hoyle. This bill would provide critical new protections for key habitat areas in some of America’s last, best salmon and steelhead waters.

Dean Finnerty, a longtime fishing and hunting guide in southwest Oregon and now manager of TU’s Wild Steelhead Initiative, said, “On behalf of the thousands of anglers who fish each year for salmon and steelhead in rivers like the Illinois and North Fork Smith, we thank Congresswoman Val Hoyle for her leadership in conserving Oregon’s best remaining salmon and steelhead strongholds. This important legislation will permanently protect these waters, and the fishing opportunities that many local economies depend on, from proposed hard-rock mining, among other threats, and reflects feedback gained from many years of outreach to local communities.” 

The Southern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act will also protect smaller salmon strongholds such as Hunter Creek and the Pistol River [pictured here]. 

SOWSPA has long enjoyed strong, bipartisan public support from communities in southwestern Oregon and northern California, which depend on unspoiled rivers for the pure drinking water, salmon and steelhead fishing, and outstanding opportunities for outdoor recreation such as boating, swimming, and camping they provide.

Finnerty noted that recreational angling for salmon and steelhead angling is a primary economic driver for this rural region, and salmon and steelhead require cold, clean water. As wild salmon and steelhead stocks continue to decline across the Pacific Northwest, we cannot afford to risk the potentially disastrous effects of surface mining on our best remaining salmon strongholds, he said.

In 2016, as a large foreign mining company began to explore this region for development of its possible mineral resources, local opinion drove the adoption of a temporary (20-year) mineral withdrawal, which remains in effect today. Rep. Hoyle’s bill would make this withdrawal permanent.

“The warming climate and continued development pressures are wreaking havoc on many of our salmon and steelhead fisheries,” said Finnerty. “We no longer have the luxury of taking chances with those few remaining lands and waters where wild salmon and steelhead runs are still consistent. SOWSPA is the right bill at a critical time for the salmon and steelhead of southwest Oregon, and for the anglers and communities who depend on them. We look forward to working closely with Rep. Hoyle to pass this legislation as soon as possible.”

#          #          #