Friday, January 29, 2010

ONDA News: Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, introduce legislation for two new wilderness areas in Oregon’s high desert

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 28, 2010

Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, introduce legislation for two new
wilderness areas in Oregon's high desert

The Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven Wilderness Act of 2010 was
introduced today by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley(D-
Ore.). This proposed legislation will consolidate land ownership and
protect 16,400 acres of new wilderness along the John Day River. The
Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven Wilderness Areas would encompass
dramatic basalt cliffs and rolling hills of juniper, sagebrush and
native grasses, along with a hidden pine forest. The area offers
world-class opportunities for outdoor recreation as well as crucial
wildlife habitat for elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep and native fish
such as salmon and steelhead trout.

This proposal is a collaboration between diverse groups of
stakeholders, including Young Life, a Christian youth organization
that owns and operates nearby Washington Family Ranch, local ranchers,
and the Bend-based Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA). The
proposal has been endorsed by Jefferson, Wasco and Wheeler Counties,
local businesses, and the Redmond Chapter of the Oregon Hunters

Forrest Reinhardt, an independent consultant helping assemble the
landmark legislation, stated that the benefits of this proposal are
twofold. "Obviously, with thousands of teens visiting Washington
Family Ranch each year, safety is a top priority. Consolidation of
public and private land will reduce the number of hunters who wander
on to camp property." Reinhardt went on to say, "The reduction of
private and public land fragmentation also promises to improve land
management and add thousands of acres for public access and
recreational opportunities."

The effort will specifically expand access for boaters and anglers by
transferring nearly five miles of the Wild and Scenic John Day River
into public ownership. This will expand fishing, hunting, camping and
hiking opportunities for the public in the area. John Crafton of the
Redmond chapter of Oregon Hunters Association, said, 'It is
tremendous. This proposal expands a few thousand acres of usable
public lands into over 16,000 acres, and that is a huge benefit for
wildlife because it creates wintering grounds for game animals where
they are left alone to winter naturally."

Under the proposal, BLM is positioned to receive approximately 8,821
acres in exchange for 12,323 acres going to Young Life, with two other
land owners also taking part in the land swap. The larger acreage
going to private landowners is due to BLM receiving river frontage
along the John Day River, which comparatively has much greater value.
The equal-value exchanges will be subject to an appraisal. "In the
end, it's really about protecting this amazing place for future
generations and for native fish and wildlife like wild salmon and
steelhead," said Aaron Killgore of the Oregon Natural Desert

Contact information:

Gena Goodman-Campbell, Oregon Natural Desert Association, 541-330-2638

Forrest Reinhardt, Young Life, (949) 400-1778

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