Rogue River needs protection

A report released this week by the American Rivers conservation group puts an exclamation mark behind a congressional effort to add protections to the Rogue River and its tributaries.

Earlier this month, Oregon congressmen Peter DeFazio and Earl Blumenauer unveiled a proposal that would, among other things, protect 142 miles of tributaries that feed into the federally designated wild and scenic section of the Lower Rogue River.

The principal goal of the proposal would be the addition of 132,000 acres of wilderness, 35,000 acres of recreation areas and 80 miles of wild and scenic river designation to the Mount Hood National Forest. A similar Mount Hood bill nearly became law a year ago and congressional supporters vow to continue pushing for it. Now they've added ammunition to their arsenal by including protection for the Rogue, without question one of the state's true scenic and recreation marvels.

Following on the heels of the congressional proposal was a report from the American Rivers group, which annually catalogues the greatest threats to rivers in the United States. Its report listed the Rogue River at No. 2 on its list of the most endangered rivers in the country, trailing only the Catawba-Wateree River in the Carolinas.

No one who spends any time on the Rogue River can honestly say it is the second most endangered river in the nation. Among other things, it hasn't caught fire recently. And American Rivers is quick to acknowledge that the report is not about rivers in the worst shape, but rather about rivers faced with the most serious threats to their current status.

One potential threat to the Rogue comes from timber sales offered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which would take more than 13 million board feet from about 1,000 acres in the drainage of the river and its tributaries. Opponents to the logging plan say it would remove old-growth timber and create new roads in four separate drainages within the Zane Grey Roadless Area. All of that is area is adjacent to the current wild and scenic section.

To be fair, there are questions about the likelihood of the sales proceeding. The BLM's proposed Western Oregon Plan Revision would list almost all of the area as critical habitat for the northern spotted owl. Beyond that, there are many restrictions on the type and location of logging that would occur in the area.

Nevertheless, the fact that the BLM set up three units to be sold &

and sold two of them before appeals were filed &

speaks volumes about the government's current intentions. Protecting 142 miles of Rogue River tributaries would forestall future temptations to do the same.

Oregon is well into a shift away from dependence on timber as its economic engine, recognizing the importance of nature for its recreation, tourism and environmental values. The Rogue River offers those three values in abundance and we encourage Congress to act accordingly and provide the protection it deserves.

Share This Story