Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber today listed the state’s “natural treasures” he’d like to receive federal Wilderness protection.
The areas submitted to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to be placed on a national “Crown Jewels” list include the Wild Rogue, Devil’s Staircase, Cathedral Rock, and Horse Heaven areas.
According to Kitzhaber, Oregon lags far behind neighboring states when it comes to protecting natural treasures, despite the state’s green reputation. To back up that point, his office noted that:
California has protected 15% of their state as Wilderness.
Washington is at 10%
Oregon has protected only 4% of state land with the highest level of federal protections.
Kitzhaber’s letter to the Interior Departement came in response to a request by its cabinet leader, Secretary Ken Salazar, for governors and members of Congress to identify potential “Crown Jewel” natural treasures in each state. Salazar plans to review all the proposed sites as potential wilderness areas.
Kitzhaber’s press shop included words of praise from Oregon environmentalists in its email announcement to the media:
“While Oregon has no shortage of natural treasures, we have a disturbing lack of protection for these areas,” noted Steve Pedery of Oregon Wild. “From the towering old-growth forests in the Devil’s Staircase area to the whitewater rapids on the Rogue River, Oregon’s Crown Jewels deserve to be protected and we applaud Governor Kitzhaber for nominating them.”
Crabtree Lake (Salem BLM District)
Green Springs Mountain (Medford BLM District)
the Owyhee Canyonlands (Vale and Burns BLM Districts)
More from Kitzhaber’s press release about the Crown Jewel nominations:
The Wild Rogue Wilderness is located in southwest Oregon and is a critical economic driver as it is home to some of the states healthiest salmon runs, best hiking trails, and amazing whitewater rafting that attracts people from all over the world.
The Devil’s Staircase Wilderness, located in the Coast Range mountains west of Eugene, is named after a mythical and extremely difficult to access waterfall at its center. The forests surrounding the waterfall represent the last significant refuge of unlogged old-growth forests in the Coast Range.
The Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven areas are located along the John Day River in north central Oregon. Proposals to protect these areas include improving public access to this popular rafting and fishing destination. They encompass dramatic basalt cliffs and rolling hills of juniper, sagebrush, and bluebunch wheatgrass.
The Crown Jewels effort is limited to BLM lands. While Oregon’s National Forest lands contain many wilderness-quality areas, they are not eligible for nomination. The effort is primarily aimed at areas that have sufficient local support to pass in the current Congress, according to the governor’s office.
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