Photo: Greg Burke
Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) introduced legislation today in the
U.S. Senate which would greatly improve public lands protection throughout Oregon including the protection of nearly 18,000 acres as Wilderness along the John Day River in eastern Oregon's prized high desert.
Introduced as the Oregon Treasures Act of 2013 the bill, among other notable accomplishments, would designate two new wilderness areas along and adjacent to the John Day River, Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven. The legislation includes a transfer of lands along more than four miles of the Wild and Scenic John Day River into public ownership, adds more than a dozen new campsites along a highly prized stretch of the river and improves access to public land that has been largely inaccessible to the public.
The land consolidation would allow public access to 8,500 acres of public land that have been surrounded by private ownership and unreachable by the public. "For the first time, the public will have unconstrained access to thousands of acres of prime eastern Oregon public lands. Whether you are hiking, hunting, boating, or fishing, your experience will be noticeably richer without the concern for trespassing onto private land," said Ben Gordon of the Oregon Natural Desert Association.
The Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven areas are defined by dramatic basalt cliffs, rolling hills of juniper, sagebrush and native grasses, lush river canyons, and expansive uplands. The area offers world-class opportunities for outdoor recreation as well as important wildlife habitat for elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep and native fish such as salmon and steelhead trout.
Inclusion of Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven in the Oregon Treasures Act is a result of collaboration between diverse stakeholders including local landowners, hunting, fishing, and recreational user groups, and the Bend-based Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA). The proposal has been endorsed by Wasco and Wheeler Counties, local businesses, and the Redmond Chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association.
"ONDA extends its gratitude to Senators Wyden and Merkley for their leadership to include Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven in the Oregon Treasures Act of 2013," added Gordon. "Their commitment to the conservation of Oregon's treasured public lands is a testament to the Oregonian spirit."