For Immediate Release

Devil's Staircase Wilderness; River Protections Pass US House

Overwhelming bipartisan votes in Congress demonstrate broad support for public lands protections

Erik Fernandez, Wilderness Manager
ef@oregonwild.org; (541) 382-2616

Chandra LeGue, Western Oregon Field Coordinator
cl@oregonwild.org; (541) 915-2363

Feb 26, 2019

Today, the US House of Representatives passed sweeping public lands legislation 363 to 62, including Wilderness designation for the nearly 30,000 acre Devil’s Staircase area in the Coast Range and 256 miles of Oregon Wild and Scenic Rivers. The legislation had previously passed the Senate 92 to 8 earlier this month.

Devil's Staircase Potholes (Tim Giraudier - Headwaters Photographic)

“Decades of work have gone into protecting the Devil’s Staircase area,” said Chandra LeGue of Oregon Wild. “The towering ancient forests of this Coast Range wilderness, and  the unique rock formations and beautiful waterfalls along Wasson Creek are one step closer to being protected as a legacy for future generations.”

Legislation for the Devil’s Staircase, the Molalla River, and other Oregon designations have been reintroduced repeatedly over the last several sessions of Congress. “Representatives Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader deserve kudos for their tenacity,” said Erik Fernandez, Wilderness Program Manager for Oregon Wild. “In an era where so many issues are increasingly divisive or partisan, Wilderness and public lands conservation legislation has become a bright spot for bipartisanship.”

The legislation includes 256 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers, and strong conservation safeguards from destructive mining practices for the Elk and Chetco Rivers. “These new river protections will safeguard recreation opportunities, salmon and steelhead habitat, clean drinking water, and carbon storing forests,” said Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild Conservation Director.  “Thanks to Senator Ron Wyden’s leadership, Oregon now has more Wild and Scenic Rivers than any other state in the lower 48!”

Despite the new protections included in this package, Oregon still lags far behind its neighbors on public lands conservation.  California has protected 15% of its landscape as Wilderness, Washington 10%, and Idaho 10%.  Oregon lags far behind at just 4% .  Oregon Wild expressed eagerness to work with Oregon’s Congressional delegation on the next round of Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers legislation, including the Wild Rogue Wilderness.

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).