Congress gave final approval Wednesday to new wilderness set-asides in Oregon and Idaho. It includes the Mt Hood Wilderness. The U.S. House vote closes the book on years of debate and parliamentary glitches. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.
A bipartisan majority of the U.S. House voted 285 to 140 to pass the wide-ranging federal lands package.
The voluminous measure now goes to President Obama, who is expected to sign it. It creates six new wilderness areas in Oregon and Idaho.
The biggest chunk put permanently off-limits to logging, motor bikes, or development lies in the Owyhee and Bruneau canyon lands of Southwest Idaho.
Next biggest are the forested flanks of Mount Hood. Portland Democrat Earl Blumenauer drew some skepticism from Republicans when he argued that drawing wilderness boundaries is good for the economy.
Earl Blumenauer: “Having this enhanced protection is actually going to add value. It’s going to protect water resources. It’s going to encourage tourism.”
In the House, all Representatives from the Northwest (ID, OR, WA) voted in favor except for eastern Washington Republicans Doc Hastings and Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
Proposed new Northwest wilderness areas:
Mt. Hood Wilderness: 127,000 acres of new wilderness and 80 miles of new Wild and Scenic River designations on the flanks of Oregon’s Mt. Hood.
Owhyee Initiative: Settles decades-long land management disputes by designating separate tracts for wilderness areas, grazing, and off-road vehicle use in the southwest corner of Idaho. The over half a million acres of protected wilderness center on the remote canyon lands of the Owyhee and Bruneau rivers.
Oregon Badlands Wilderness: 30,000 acres of lava flows and ancient junipers in the high desert about 15 miles east of Bend.
Spring Basin Wilderness: 8,600 acres of rolling hills with a profusion of spring wildflowers above the John Day River in north-central Oregon.
Copper Salmon Wilderness: Over 13,000 acres of old growth and cedar forests in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Protects the headwaters of the salmon-bearing Elk River in southwest Oregon.
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument: Designates as wilderness over 23,000 acres of high meadows and forest inside this relatively new national monument east of Ashland, Oregon. Includes voluntary buyouts of grazing leases near the Pacific Crest Trail.
Ice Age Flood National Geologic Trail: This auto route through portions of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana traces the path of a series of monumental floods. Interpretive centers, signs and markers, exhibits, waysides, and roadside pullouts would tell the story of the floods through the dramatic geology and hopefully enhance tourism.
Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail: Runs 1,200 miles from the Continental Divide to Cape Flattery on the Pacific Ocean. Designation as a National Scenic Trail will purportedly promote its protection and maintenance.