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Mount Hood plan passes House unanimously

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

July 26, 2006

The Mt. Hood Legacy Act was given a unanimous vote of approval by House members on Monday.

U.S. Reps. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., authors of the bill, said the approval by their peers was a great reward for three years of hard work.

House Resolution 5025 now moves to the Senate for consideration.

“This is a significant development for Oregonians everywhere,” said Walden. “It’s remarkable to think that less than a year after Congressman Blumenauer and I hiked for four days and 41 miles around the base of Mount Hood that this bill would resoundingly pass through committee and the House. This wasn’t an easy task.

“With 435 Representatives from all corners of our nation, many diverse opinions and backgrounds come into play. The fact that we achieved the unanimous support of our colleagues shows that the fruit of our labor is a perfect compromise.”

Blumenauer also expressed optimism that HR5025 would be adopted by the Senate as the master plan for stewardship of the mountain.

“This is landmark legislation for the thousands of citizens who love, live visit and work on Mount Hood,” he said. “It protects remarkable places that Oregonians agree should be preserved as Wilderness, and it provides a blueprint for managing future demands of recreation, transportation, land use, forest health, and Native American treaty rights.

“I want to thank my colleague, Congressman Walden, for joining me on what has been a remarkable odyssey over the last three years to reach this day. House passage today represents a significant milestone and I urge the Senate to take action quickly so this important legislation can become law before Labor Day.”

He and Walden crafted the bill after several years of meeting with the public, tribal leaders, recreation groups, forestry experts, the environmental community and agency heads. The end result of a negotiated compromise was 77,216 acres of new Wilderness and 25 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers in the Mount Hood National Forest. In addition, long-term planning is promoted to meet future demands for recreational use, transportation and clean drinking water.

HR5025 also encourages forest health and recognizes and respects the cultural traditions and historical rights of Native Americans. The legislation seeks to preserve huckleberry fields on the mountain that can be used by the tribe for nourishment and use in spiritual ceremonies.

“Congressman Walden and Congressman Blumenauer have corrected an oversight in the original Wilderness Act by recognizing our treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather on the mountain,” said Louie Pitt, government liaison for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Spring.

Hood River County Administrator Dave Meriwether said he was pleased with the outcome of Monday’s vote.

“We applaud Congressmen Walden and Blumenauer for this outstanding bipartisan effort. It’s a common sense and inclusive approach to dealing with the interests and issues on the mountain,” he said.

Hood River County advocated for two land exchanges included in HR5025:

* The bill would end a 40-year dispute over development on the north face of the mountain. It supports a settlement agreement between Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort and the Hood River Valley Residents Committee. After months of mediation, Meadows agreed to forego further enlargement of its Cooper Spur Mountain Resort holding. In exchange, HRVRC agreed not to oppose Meadows’ plan to build condominiums on land near Government Camp that Clackamas County has already zoned for that purpose.

* The Port of Cascade Locks would be allowed to expand protection along a 10-acre section of Pacific Crest Trail that lies within its ownership. In exchange the public agency would swap 10 acres of land owned by the U.S. Forest Service within the city’s urban growth boundary. That property would be used to construct the city’s only senior housing development.

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