For Immediate Release

Devil's Staircase Wilderness, 256 miles of Oregon Wild and Scenic Rivers Pass Senate

40 year campaign nears victory with rare and overwhelming bipartisan vote of 92 to 8 in US Senate

Erik Fernandez, Wilderness Program Manager; (541) 382-2616


February 12, 2018

The US Senate today passed a bipartisan package of public lands legislation that included the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness, more than 256 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers, and other important conservation designations. The package, known as the Oregon Wildlands Act, was spearheaded by Sen. Ron Wyden and now heads to the House of Representatives for a final vote. Unfortunately, due to last-minute opposition by Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, the beloved Wild Rogue Wilderness was dropped from the package.

Chandra LeGue in the Dark Grove, a stand of massive oldgrowth trees in the Devil's Staircase Wilderness proposal.

“Thanks to Senator Ron Wyden, the 40 year effort to protect the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness is that much closer to becoming law,” said Oregon Wild’s Chandra LeGue. “It is now up to the House to ensure that this amazing landscape, the unique waterfalls, crystal clear waters, and old-growth giants are protected as a legacy for all Oregonians.”

Also included in the legislation were protections for 256 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers, including segments of the Molalla, Elk, and Chetco Rivers. These river corridors provide amazing recreational opportunities, clean drinking water, and carbon storing forests.

Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have been working to pass the Oregon Wildlands Act for ten years. The last time Congress protected Wilderness or Wild and Scenic Rivers in Oregon was the Public Lands Omnibus bill of 2009.

The Wild Rogue Wilderness, an area beloved by whitewater rafters and vital to Oregon’s tourism and recreation economy, was originally included in the “Oregon Wildlands Act” package. This plan was based on an historic 2010 compromise between the timber industry and environmentalists, where both sides agreed to support permanent protection for the Wild Rogue's ancient forests, spectacular whitewater, and economically important salmon and steelhead runs. Rep. Greg Walden reached outside of his district, breaking with the tradition of local deference, when he opposed inclusion of the Wild Rogue. 

“While much remains to be done to protect the last remaining wild areas in Oregon, the Senate took a very important first step today,” said Oregon Wild Wilderness Program Manager Erik Fernandez. 

Additional background:

  • The Molalla River provides clean drinking water to the communities of Canby and Molalla. 21 river miles designated. 
  • The Chetco River has been threatened multiple times in the past by destructive mining proposals that would have degraded one of Oregon’s most impressive Chinook salmon runs. 
  • The Devil’s Staircase area is home to one of the last intact stands of old-growth forest in the Oregon Coast Range. 
  • The Nestucca River is the first river in the northern Oregon Coast Range to be safeguarded as a Wild and Scenic River (also included is the Walker Creek tributary).

 Devil's Staircase by David Tvedt