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McElligott: Speak up about River Democracy Act


Some things from 2021 are still lingering in 2022, like the River Democracy Act that Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are pushing. They are trying to amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.

For several months Iíve been following this issue and still there are no answers to many revolving questions. Like why are some of the designated streams not streams at all, but dry washes? Why are the stream buffers increased from a quarter a mile to half a mile? The act has pages of coordinates of the streams, rivers, and dry gulches to be protected, but not one map.

In May, the Oregon Cattlemenís Association asked for the maps and then they asked again in November. As of this writing, we still donít have the maps from Wydenís office.

I know of two counties in Eastern Oregon that have at their own expense, hired an engineering firm to map the coordinates in the act in order to have a visual map of the affected streams. These visual maps give the county a picture of how this act will impact them.

It is unconscionable that any county government should have to spend money from its general fund to map these streams when information should be available upon request from Senator Wyden or Merkley. Yet, they continue to ignore the requests. How will this affect livestock grazing and other natural resource users?

This act talks a lot about fire resiliency, but supplies no details as to how locking up 3.1 million acres of federal land will reduce threat of fire to land, lumber and lives. What will the long-term economic effect of this bill have on rural Oregon?

Wyden and his team expound on the great benefits of tourism and the dollars spent on recreation. Thatís the well-polished sales pitch and talking points pounded into their heads at staff meetings. When hikers, bikers and ATVers visit rural Oregon most of them bring their own tents, campers, or RVís. They fill their coolers and gas tanks at home and donít spend much in the small towns they drive through.

Wydenís bill has a $30 million price tag. Not just for the first year but every year ó forever. Only $5 million of that is earmarked. What is the other $25 million for? They havenít answered that one either.

The original intent of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was to preserve certain rivers with ďoutstanding, natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition.Ē This act as presented is a vast departure from the original Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. If this act passes into law, it will set grave precedent that will enable law makers to circumvent protocol and procedures. Our Senators were elected to represent all Oregonians, not a select demographic.

Please take the time to look up SB 192. If you donít like what you see, if you donít want another 4,700 miles of streams and 3.1 million acres of Oregon locked up, reach out to Oregonís senators and let them know.

ó Matt McElligott is president elect of the Oregon Cattlemenís Association.



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