Conservation Alliance Executive Director John Sterling testified at a Senate hearing today in support of legislation that would protect wilderness and wild rivers on Oregon’s iconic Mount Hood.

The Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act, introduced by Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith, would designate 128,000 acres of land on the Mount Hood National Forest as Wilderness. It would also secure Wild and Scenic designations for 80 miles of rivers on the mountain. In addition, the legislation would establish a 35,000-acre National Recreation Area.

“The Conservation Alliance supports the effort to secure new Wilderness designations on Mount Hood because wilderness is good for business,” said Sterling in his testimony. “Our protected wilderness and rivers are among our most valuable economic assets.”

Several outdoor industry companies have actively supported the effort to protect wild places on Mount Hood. In 2006, representatives from Columbia Sportswear, KEEN Footwear, and Yakima Products met with both Senators’ offices to express their support for new protections. The Conservation Alliance has submitted supportive comments at several hearings dating back to 2004.

“This hearing is the latest in a string of efforts we have made to demonstrate support for Mount Hood’s wilderness and rivers,” said Sterling. “Our members in Oregon and elsewhere are committed to preserving the mountain’s natural heritage.”

KEEN Footwear moved their operations to Oregon recently, in part because of the region’s high quality of life. The company now employs more than 60 people in downtown Portland.

“Easy access to protected public lands is an important asset to living in the Portland area,” said KEEN President Kirk Richardson. “It helps us recruit and retain good employees. Adding new wilderness and river protections on Mount Hood is good for Oregon, and good for our company.”

During the hearing, both Senators Wyden and Smith pledged to work hard to ensure that their bill passes this year. Sterling encouraged the Senators to consider Mount Hood the first in a series of efforts to protect Oregon’s special public lands.

“You can count on it!” responded Wyden.