Oregon Treasures Legislation – Guest Opinion

It is time for Congress to Protect Oregon’s Treasures

Senator Ron Wyden and Congressman Peter DeFazio recently introduced Oregon Treasures – legislation that would protect 142 miles of Rogue River tributaries, greatly increase the size of Oregon Caves National Monument, and protect areas in the Mount Hood National Forest.

Passing this legislation would not only help to protect our local environment but also our local economy for generations to come. Local outdoor recreation companies such as mine rely on the pristine natural experience that Southern Oregon offers to prospective tourists.

The Rogue River is a nationally recognized natural treasure that lures people to the area on name and reputation alone. It is one of the central engines of a tourism and recreation economy in Southern Oregon that continues to grow and provide sustainable long-term jobs and opportunities.

The tributaries to the Rogue River that would be protected lie mostly between Grave Creek and Marial – an area that many locals call the Zane Grey roadless area. Here the Rogue River flows through one of the most spectacular and biologically unique wild areas in the United States. This is the “Wild” portion of the Rogue, but only one quarter of a mile on either side of the river is protected. The greater Rogue canyon – including the beautifully forested slopes that thousands of tourists float through every year – is not protected.

The list of businesses that are dependant on the Rogue River and the Oregon Caves is long, and the ripple effect the recreation economy has through southern Oregon’s economy is significant. Dependant businesses include hotels, bed and breakfasts, outdoor equipment stores, local restaurants, gas stations, and everyone else who benefits directly or indirectly from tourists visiting the area. This is why over 50 businesses, from local rafting and fishing companies to large regional outdoor retailers are working on the “Save the Wild Rogue” campaign.

For Southern Oregon, passing the Oregon Treasures legislation could not be more important and timely for both its short and long term economic stability. It is important that we urge all of Oregon’s elected leaders, including Senator Gordon Smith, to move this proposal forward.

Pete Wallstrom is the owner of Momentum River Expeditions, a guiding and rafting company in Southern Oregon and Northwest California.