The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a large package of bills Tuesday on public lands that includes protections for lands across the nation, including several Oregon rivers and two Douglas County sites.
In a speech on the Senate floor prior to passage Tuesday, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, recalled former Republican governor Tom McCall, known for his conservation efforts, and said protecting public lands is not a partisan proposition. The legislation passed on a 92-8 bipartisan vote. With it, Wyden said Oregon became the state with the largest number of miles of protected Wild and Scenic Rivers in the lower 48 states.
It established the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Management Area in the North Umpqua River watershed and the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness north of Scottsburg.
Wyden told The News-Review on Tuesday the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness is a spectacular 30,621-acre rainforest.
“I could picture Tom McCall, this towering figure, striding through the forest,” he said. “This is a really pristine area named after a series of cascading waterfalls on Wassen Creek. It’s in an area that’s so remote and so steep that hikers, a lot of them from all over the West and all over the world, can only get access to it after a day-long trek through miles of devil’s club.”
Devil’s club, he said, is a spiky tall bush.
“The people who’ve seen the waterfall and the primeval stands of old growth that surround it really look at this in Tom McCall fashion. That with this bill, we’re ensuring that majestic Douglas fir and tall trees are going to be there for future generations,” he said.
The steelhead area includes 99,653 acres of Forest Service land which will now be managed to protect wild salmonids. It’s named for two Idleyld Park conservationists who have dedicated much of their lives to protecting the area. Frank Moore is a World War II veteran who has been awarded the French Legion of Honor medal and inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. Jeanne Moore is a longtime organizer of the annual Glide Wildflower Show whose discovery of rare plants led to conservation of the Limpy Rock area in the Umpqua National Forest.
Wyden said the area was dedicated to the Moores because their legacy on the Umpqua is all about “protecting Oregon’s treasures.”
The public lands legislation next goes to the House, where Rep. Peter DeFazio also introduced legislation to protect Devil’s Staircase and the steelhead management area last week. Wyden said he’s hopeful the House will pass the Senate version of the public lands package and that President Donald Trump will sign it.