The Past and Future of Mount Hood Wilderness

Snow-covered Mount Hood with text over it: Keep Mount Hood Wild

13 years ago, President Obama signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (HR 146) into law. The Oregon component of this legislation - including new Mount Hood Wilderness, as well as Copper Salmon, Soda Mountain, Spring Basin and Badlands - was the result of years of work by conservation organizations, volunteers, Senators Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith, and congressional staff. It even involved a bipartisan hike around Mount Hood by Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Greg Walden.

Some of Mount Hood’s most spectacular landscapes saw new protections: scenic canyons along White River, diverse forests of Fifteenmile Creek, old-growth along Roaring River, and beautiful whitewater of the East Fork of the Hood River. All told, the bill designated 127,000 acres of Wilderness and 80 miles of rivers around Mount Hood and in the Columbia Gorge as Wild and Scenic Rivers.

White River Canyon by Scott Smorra

As historic as this legislation was, it still left unfinished business on Mount Hood. Key areas like the Salmon River Keyhole and Boulder Lake were left out. Celebrated areas like Tamanawas Falls were stripped out of the proposal and left vulnerable to the commercial logging projects that were quickly proposed by the Forest Service. Other projects have threatened locations like Mount Defiance and Vista Ridge. Oregon Wild has continued to push back against these proposals and work for the protection of these incredible areas.

Boulder Lake by Jennifer Malgren and Tamanawas Falls by Scott Smorra

In the meantime, issues like climate change and crowding have emphasized the need for a new and modern vision for this beloved landscape. Anyone who has visited Mount Hood or the Columbia River Gorge on a weekend can testify to heavy traffic and dangerous trailhead parking. And with the increasing importance of the role old and mature forests play as one of the most effective tools for fighting climate change makes it imperative that they be safeguarded. Any new plan for Mount Hood needs to address these modern realities while also protecting clean water, wildlife habitat, and making recreation opportunities safer and more accessible.

Crowding on the highway to Mount Hood, from ODOT

While we celebrate the important protections enacted over a decade ago, we know our work is not done! Over the last ten years, Representative Earl Blumenauer and Ron Wyden have convened multiple listening sessions, stakeholder meetings, comment periods, and summits to solicit feedback on what a future for Mount Hood would look like. They understand that we need new legislation to #KeepMountHoodWild for the future, and for everyone!