In May, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley introduced S. 1262. This matters to Southern Oregon because it expands the Wild Rogue Wilderness by 60,000-acres and creates a 98,000-acre recreation area adjacent to the existing Wild Rogue Wilderness Area (maps available here). These public lands are near several communities that have been identified as being at high risk for wildfire.
S. 1262 has already received a hearing in the U.S. Senate. Both the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have expressed concerns about how these new land designations will affect their ability to manage these lands. A Forest Service official stated bluntly that “restrictive land use designations can post significant challenges for land managers’ ability to actively manage forest lands and reduce hazardous fuels around communities, create access issues for diverse land users and have impacts on rural economies.”
A BLM official echoed this concern and added the bill could also reduce public lands access: “Because of the size of the proposed recreation areas, the bill’s language related to road construction may also limit public access to any potential new or existing trailheads and scenic opportunities, and limit the extent to which forest health and wildfire resiliency activities could be implemented, especially where these activities necessitate decreasing the density of commercially viable materials.”
This year Congress has already passed an Oregon wilderness bill that added new restrictions to land management on thousands of acres near the Rogue River, an area that has been impacted by wildfires in recent years. Everyone wants healthy forests and recreational opportunities on public lands, but S. 1262 is simply the wrong approach. If you agree, you can share your concerns by clicking here.