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Good news! Looks like a step in the right direction. >From OPB Mt Hood Wilderness Bill Clears House Committee By Tom Banse SEATTLE, WA 2006-07-20 A Congressional panel that's previously blocked new wilderness set-asides in the Northwest has now voted to upgrade protection for rugged backcountry in Oregon, Idaho, and northern California. Correspondent Tom Banse reports. ----------- Normally, a congressional committee vote is no big deal. But Northwest lawmakers and some enviros are celebrating an apparent breakthrough on the House Resources Committee. Rural conservatives dominate the panel. But they waved through 77,000 acres of new wilderness around Mt. Hood. Oregon Republican Greg Walden and Democrat Earl Blumenauer crafted the compromise. Earl Blumenauer: "This might well provide a model for how we're going to move other sensitive wilderness and natural resource issues forward." The same meeting also put 315,000 acres of rugged mountains in central Idaho off limits to mining, logging, and motorized travel -- same for 279,000 acres of forests on California's North Coast. In addition, a Pasco Congressman got preliminary support for the Ice Age Floods Geological Trail. That proposed auto route starts in Montana and ends in the Columbia Gorge. ID=944176

More Wilderness News (from the Oregonian) Oregon's two U.S. senators announced a new bill Thursday to set aside about 10 percent of the Mount Hood National Forest -- more than 125,000 acres -- as newly protected wilderness off-limits to roads, logging and other development. The proposal by Sens. Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden goes far beyond a 77,500-acre wilderness bill that passed the House of Representatives last month, and opens the door for Mount Hood to get its first new wilderness protections in more than 20 years. Both senators said the wilderness measure could pass the full Congress this year and go to the president -- despite concern that a land trade included in the bill could erode support in the Senate. Smith predicted President Bush would support the bill if it reaches the White House. The Smith-Wyden bill would permanently secure the knife-like ridge and virgin forests of Hunchback Mountain and the photogenic shimmer of Mirror Lake. It also designates almost 80 miles of the mountain's rivers as wild and scenic, so dams could never be built. The senators said their bill would also create an 18,700-acre network of Mount Hood National Recreation Areas on the east side of the mountain, where development would be limited but activities such as mountain biking could continue. Both houses of Congress must advance legislation for it to have a chance, and the lingering question was whether Smith, a Republican, and Wyden, a Democrat, would draft a Senate bill to match one sponsored by U.S. Reps. Greg Walden and Earl Blumenauer in the House. Smith and Wyden worked with a lower profile than Walden and Blumenauer, who hiked around the mountain together last summer. But they said Thursday they are just as committed to giving Mount Hood new protections. Acreage may not be issue If the Senate bill passes, a conference committee would be formed to work out the differences between it and the House bill. Walden and Blumenauer said in a telephone interview Thursday that they hoped the Senate bill will add momentum to their own efforts to establish new wilderness. They said the different acreage included in the two bills would not necessarily create a hurdle. But they said there could be difficulties if extra protections in the Senate bill affected other uses, such as irrigation rights. Walden and Blumenauer said they want proper guidelines to be followed on the land exchange, but said they were not yet sure what provisions would be included in the Senate bill. Under the House version of the wilderness bill passed last month, the U.S. Forest Service would trade 120 acres of forest land adjacent to the community of Government Camp for the Cooper Spur ski area and related lands on the northeastern flank of the mountain. Forest Service officials have opposed the trade, saying it does not serve the public interest. Swap would be reviewed Some critics maintain the swap undervalues the Forest Service land to the benefit of Mt. Hood Meadows Oregon LP, owner of Cooper Spur. The trade was based on private appraisals paid for by Mt. Hood Meadows, which agreed to end its development plans in the Hood River Valley if it could obtain the Government Camp property for residential development of as many as 480 homes. Sen. Wyden said Thursday that the land swap between Mt. Hood Meadows and the Forest Service will be reviewed in the Senate to protect the "public interest." Smith said the land exchange will not be included in the Senate version as it is currently written in the House bill. The exchange has to meet federal appraisal standards for land exchanges, Smith and Wyden said. Trying to include land values from the current appraisals, as was done in the House version, would kill the bill in the Senate, Wyden said. "I wish it would have been done differently," Wyden said of the House version of the land exchange. "I wish there would have been a public hearing here in Oregon on that issue." In fashioning their own wilderness bill, Wyden pushed for more acreage than the House bill, and Smith agreed to find a higher number as long as it would not reduce land designated for commercial logging and other uses such as snowmobiling. "We have pushed the envelope as far as we could to cobble together as much land as we could," Smith said at a Thursday news conference with Wyden along the Willamette River, with Mount Hood hidden in smoky haze behind him. "I'll use all the leverage I've got to move this forward." Environmentalists applaud Their proposal pleased environmental groups that pledged to back it even though they originally wanted about twice as much wilderness acreage. Timber industry leaders said that putting more land in wilderness would make it impossible to combat wildfires. But Smith said the new wilderness areas would not be attractive areas for logging anyway. The land exchange worries some supporters of the wilderness legislation. A spokesman for the Oregon Natural Resources Council said Thursday that if new appraisals are required that delay passage into 2007, "we think it should be approached as separate legislation." Even staff members for Sens. Wyden and Smith were apparently struggling to fashion a response to the land swap in the hours before Thursday's announcement. In a press release sent to news organizations early in the day, the senators said any appraisals would have to meet the Federal Land Policy Management Act, which requires time-consuming environmental assessments of any land exchange, as well as the opportunity for extensive public review. By Thursday afternoon, however, that requirement had been struck from a press release handed out by aides to the senators. The land exchange originated as a way for conservation groups opposed to development at the ski area to end any chance of Mt. Hood Meadows building a resort in the upper Hood River Valley. By agreeing to support the land exchange for federal forest land near Government Camp, the conservationists gained a victory for the valley, despite Forest Service opposition to being forced to surrender the 120 acres in Government Camp. Dave Riley, general manager of Mt. Hood Meadows, has said if turned away from the Government Camp property, his company will return to the Cooper Spur area to attempt to build a resort there. Walden and Blumenauer are now asking the Government Accountability Office to review the appraisals Mt. Hood Meadows paid for that were used to support the House bill. The U.S. Forest Service has also been asked to review the appraisals by Congress. A spokesman for the GAO said Thursday no decision has been made on whether to review the appraisals. The Forest Service has yet to begin its review, a spokesman said. Both Wyden and Smith said public trails and wetlands in the Government Camp property would have to be protected. No tax breaks will be available to Mt. Hood Meadows should its land be appraised at a higher value than the government land, should Mt. Hood Meadows donate the difference to the government and try to claim a tax benefit. Smith and Wyden said they would also introduce separate legislation to permanently retire grazing permits in Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon and create 23,000 acres of new wilderness there. Michael Milstein: 503-294-7689;; Peter Sleeth: 503-294-4119; Oregonian Reporter Les Zaitz contributed to this report
great news! looks like the bill is headed to the senate next - hopefully it goes all the way: does anyone know if it's predicted to pass through smoothly, or will it get stuck?
This is great news...we want more!
Does anyone know what new areas of Mt. Hood are going to be wilderenss?
This is definitely good news. Earl Blumenauer does some very good work, hopefully in the future he'll be able to facilitate the addition of more wilderness areas in Oregon.