Anyone have any info on the new wilderness bill for Mt. Hood and whether any trails may be affected? Does this contain something akin to the Hood Pedalers Demonstration Experiment PUMP worked on with Walden's bill a few years ago?
Proposal would add 40 percent to wilderness
Mount Hood - A U.S. House bill also would give protection to 23 miles of rivers
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Greg Walden of Oregon unveiled a bill Tuesday to designate 77,500 acres of Mount Hood National Forest as wilderness, protecting it from most use except recreation.
The proposal to increase the forest's wilderness by 40 percent flows from three years of meetings and negotiations with area residents, industry and environmental groups. The bill also adds a "wild and scenic river" protection to 23 miles of rivers in the forest, a 19 percent increase.
Other provisions would tell the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create a 10-year plan to better manage areas that have disease, insect infestations, "heavily overstocked tree stands or moderate-to-high risk of unnatural catastrophic wildfire." The plan could include harvesting some trees for timber. The USDA would have one year to make the plan in a public process, then one more to start carrying it out.
Federal and state workers would also draft a plan to improve transportation to the mountain and among its scenic areas. That could include a new highway exchange at Government Camp and a tram from there to Timberline Lodge.
Blumenauer, a Portland Democrat, said the bill would create the forest's first new wilderness areas in 21 years. It "charts a comprehensive course for the mountain's future" at a time when a growing population makes increasing, sometimes competing demands on the land.
Two land swaps are in the bill: The government would give Mt. Hood Meadows corporation 120 acres of prime Government Camp real estate, appraised at $3.8 million, in exchange for 770 acres in Cooper Spur on the mountain's north side, appraised at $5.5 million. The USDA would offer other companies contracts to run the Inn at Cooper Spur and Cooper Spur Ski Area, putting the land in a protected Crystal Springs Watershed management unit. Separately, Cascade Locks would get 10 acres in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in exchange for 40 acres of city land along the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.
Walden, a Hood River Republican, has scheduled the bill for an April 5 hearing in the forests subcommittee he leads. Oregon Reps. Peter DeFazio and Darlene Hooley have signed on as co-sponsors. Walden said he hopes the House will pass the bill by Memorial Day and send it to the Senate, where a proposal to create more than twice this amount of wilderness died last session.
Walden said the amount of wilderness in his proposal is far more than the combined total covered by three wilderness bills his committee has seen in three years. "So this is a bit of heavy lifting, especially in my party," he said, "but is viable and passable."
Walden said a lot of hard work and choices went into balancing the interests of landowners, governments, Native American tribes, businesses, environmental advocates and citizens who want to enjoy nature. Blumenauer said the bill was born "of understanding, problem-solving and cooperation."
Groups criticize bill
But interest groups began criticizing the bill before the politicians' news conference ended, saying they will work to change it in Congress.
Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club praised creating new wilderness, but said thousands more acres should be protected. Some activists worried the forest management plan would create a lot of new, harmful logging.
Tom Partin, whose American Forest Resource Council represents forest-products businesses, praised the bill for not reducing the net amount of land open to forestry. But he said his group doesn't "support all of the wilderness areas designated."
Spokespeople for Oregon's Sens. Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden said they like the basic ideas in the House bill, but will craft their own Senate legislation. Wyden, who sponsored the broader 2004 bill, would like a "significant increase in the wilderness" area the House bill covers, said his chief of staff, Josh Kardon.
The proposed bill also would:
Calculate how many small trees and plants could be converted to fuel, lumber or other business use as part of "forest restoration efforts."
Create a system where fees for using the national forest would go to fund projects in the forest, and an advisory council to help direct the money.
Set up areas where members of Native American tribes with gathering rights in the national forest could harvest roots, berries and other food plants.
Have the USDA consider turning Forest Service roads destined for closure into recreation trails, such as mountain bike paths.
Sign agreements with cities and irrigation districts to preserve the water quality and forest health in watersheds.
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