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Hiker-leaders present ‘basalt-solid’ plan for Mt. Hood wilderness

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

March 22, 2006

U.S. Reps. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., are on the verge of introducing a long-term management plan for Mount Hood.

The bi-partisan team held a press conference in Portland on Tuesday morning to announce that their “vision” is complete. Next week, they will submit the Mount Hood Stewardship Legacy Act for consideration by their peers.

The master plan was crafted following three years of public discussions and multiple meetings with Oregon’s Congressional delegation.

“Our plan protects and preserves the fragile ecosystems on Mount Hood while providing for better transportation, recreation and cultural uses. Like the mountain itself, it was built from the ground up and the result is as solid as basalt,” said Walden, who makes his home in Hood River.

Blumenauer and Walden are proud to have introduced the only legislation this session that concerns Mount Hood in either the House or the Senate. They believe their bill successfully addresses a multitude of issues, including two local land exchanges, expansion of wilderness areas and preservation of tribal harvesting and cultural rights.

“I can think of no other environmental legislation affecting an area in Oregon that has been as publicly considered and drafted since we wrote and passed the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act in 1999,” said Walden.

U.S. Reps. Darlene Hooley, D-Ore., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., have agreed to co-sponsor the legislation. Walden has scheduled the bill for a hearing before the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, which he chairs, on April 5. He is hopeful that any final adjustments can be made and the measure moved to the House floor by Memorial Day.

The legislation proposes 77,500 acres of added wilderness, a 41 percent increase. Walden said about 2,500 more acres have been added since the preliminary plan was aired last fall. The bill also adds about 23 miles of Wild and Scenic River designations, a 19 percent increase to the current network.

The settlement agreement between the Hood River Valley Residents Committee and Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort is also included. Congress is being asked to approve the deal where Meadows conveys to the U.S. Forest Service its 770 acres of Cooper Spur holdings. In return, the federal government will exchange 120 acres in Clackamas County with Meadows to accommodate housing units.

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Further details of the Mount Hood Legacy plan and the reaction by conservation groups and other stakeholders will be featured in the March 25 Hood River News.

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