For Immediate Release
59 Oregon Elected Officials Call for “Protecting America’s Public Lands Heritage”
Arran Robertson, Oregon Wild
(503) 283-6343 x223
Oregon State Senator James Manning
Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba
Bend City Councilor Gena Goodman-Campbell
Today, 59 elected leaders from across the state called on Oregon’s Congressional delegation to stand up for public lands and environmental values. State Senators and Representatives, county commissioners, mayors, and city councilors representing geographically diverse parts of Oregon signed onto a letter urging Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, as well as the state’s Congressional Representatives, to oppose attempts to weaken environmental laws and safeguard Oregon’s special places from damaging management practices and irresponsible development.
The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, one of several landscapes across Oregon under threat.
Oregon’s public lands are important drivers of the state’s economy. Travel Oregon has found that outdoor experiences remain a primary driver of non-residents visiting Oregon. Data from the Outdoor Industry Association shows that outdoor recreation in Oregon generates $12.8 billion in economic activity each year, supporting 141,000 jobs statewide. Protected public lands are also vital to the state’s environmental health. Over two-thirds of Oregonians get their drinking water from federal public lands, and dozens of cities all across our state, including Portland, Eugene, and Bend, depend on rivers that flow through our public lands for clean, safe drinking water.
"I understand how important public lands are to the people of Oregon," said State Senator James Manning. "Clean water, great recreation, and protected wild places are essential to our quality of life. I'm happy to join many of my colleagues in sending a message to Congress that public lands are not for sale."
“The temperate forests of the Pacific Northwest are one of, if not the single largest carbon sink in the world,” said Milwaukie mayor Mark Gamba. “At a time when we know that we have 12 years to stop the worst effects of climate change, preserving our forests is essential. We have very few remaining truly wild places left, we need to protect them and begin to restore as much as we can."
"We need to work at all levels of government to protect our natural treasures across the state as a legacy for future generations," said Bend City Councilor Gena Goodman-Campbell.
The letter comes as Congress considers a package of public lands bills, and in the aftermath of a scandal-plagued Interior Department working to reduce public accountability and environmental protections.
In the Senate, legislation has been introduced that includes Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River designations in Oregon. Original versions of this legislation were more expansive, designating among other things the 58,000 Wild Rogue Wilderness in southern Oregon. These provisions were stripped out of the legislation at the behest of Congressman Greg Walden and the logging industry.
The letter also comes after last year's resignation of Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke. In addition to facing numerous investigations into his conduct as a government official, Zinke has been regularly criticized for favoring corporate exploitation of public lands for gas and logging over other values like recreation, equity, clean water, and wildlife. He presided over an error-prone national monuments report that was used to justify shrinking the boundaries of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, the largest reduction of protected public lands in US history. That same report targeted Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, though the Trump Administration is currently defending the monument’s expanded boundaries in federal court.
Zinke’s replacement will require Senate confirmation. Senator Ron Wyden voted in favor of Zinke in 2017, but expressed remorse. “I now consider that to be one of the worst votes I’ve cast in my time in public service, said Wyden in August of 2017. “Because he’s doing everything he can to roll back environmental protections, giving oil and gas executives free reign to exploit public lands, and he’s putting an end to common sense regulations that curb emissions of methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas.”
Elected leaders have signed onto four ways to help safeguard Oregon’s natural heritage:
Reject any legislation that would privatize or otherwise diminish America’s public lands. These lands should be held in trust for all Americans for generations to come.
Support the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and reject any attempt to eliminate other protections for our public lands.
Support our bedrock environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and the Endangered Species Act. America’s environmental laws help ensure our wildlife, rivers, and wild places are protected and that Americans have a voice in how our public lands are managed.
Support stronger safeguards, like Wilderness, for our most special places. Landscapes like the greater Crater Lake region, the stunning Owyhee Canyonlands, and the majestic forests of the Ochoco Mountains should be protected.
State Senator Kathleen Taylor
State Representative Tawna Sanchez
Commissioner Claire Hall, Lincoln County
Mayor Ted Wheeler, Portland, Oregon
Peter Cornelison, Hood River City Councilor