Treehuggers International

Preserving Wilderness and Watersheds With Oregon Wild

July 29th, 2012

Sean Stevens from Oregon Wild

Treehuggers International is pleased to welcome Sean Stevens, the Executive Director of Oregon Wild, to talk about the curiously unique issues which wilderness advocates face in the Beaver State, as well as the incredible volume of proposed Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River designations waiting to be approved by Congress.

A special thanks to the staff of Oregon Wild for allowing us into their offices in Portland to record this show, and a special thanks not only to Sean for making time to appear on the show, but also to former Oregon Wild Executive Director Scott Shlaes, now the Director of Development for Sustainability Initiatives at Portland State University.

A lenticular cloud-capped Mt. Hood from the trail to East Zigzag Mountain.

Crossroads of Climate and Diversity

Boasting an incredible coastline, several major mountain ranges, high desert, thousands of miles of forest and timberland, one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet in the Siskiyou-Rogue, one of the most iconic National Parks in the west, and the Columbia River Gorge to the north and Hell’s Canyon to the east, Oregon makes a strong case as one of the great outdoor destinations in the western U.S., if not the world.

Beyond the major populations centers straddling the Willamette Valley, Oregon remains sparsely populated, but with the state’s historically cozy relationship with the timber industry, setting aside wilderness other than the “rock and ice” of the highest peaks has often proven to be a long, difficult fight.

Helping Secure A Deserved Wilderness Legacy

Originally called the Oregon Natural Resources Council, Oregon Wild has helped preserve nearly 1.7 million acres of designated wilderness in the state since the organization was formed in 1974. Oregon Wild has also helped establish 1,800 miles of Wild and Scenic River protections on rivers and waterways throughout Oregon, including the state’s iconic Rogue River, one of the great white-water destinations and wild rivers in the U.S.

A splash of fall color, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.

Powered by an active grassroots citizens network, Oregon Wild has made the preservation of the state’s remaining old-growth forest and watersheds a priority, and is committed to protecting hiking, backpacking, and fishing opportunities, and working to cut down on habitat dissection and ensuring environmental law is enforced.

The primary mission of Oregon Wild is to protect and restore Oregon’s current wilderness areas, and advocate for wilderness designation in roadless areas like the Devil’s Staircase in the Coast Range, North Fork John Day, or the Waldo Lake shoreline.

The organization also seeks to expand current wilderness around Mt. Hood, Crater Lake, Mt. Thielsen, the Wallowas, the Rogue River Valley and dozens of other significant locations around the state, but over the last several years Oregon Wild and similar conservation organizations have had a number of peripheral, yet pressing issues presented to them.

Old Railroad Lands to WOPR to Wolves

Oregon Wild has been actively involved in securing an appropriate solution to the state’s BLM-managed O&C Lands, or rather, “Oregon and California” lands formerly belonging to the Oregon and California Railroad, which the federal government won back from the railroad in the 1930s. Maddeningly checkerboarded as private and federal land, the O&C Lands make for a dizzying mix of management, and encompass some of the most vulnerable old-growth and roadless areas of the state.

Oregon’s southwestern counties have also been contending with funding issues regarding the expiration of Secure Rural Schools Act, as well as ongoing fallout from the Western Oregon Plans Revision (or WOPR), itself an attempt to restructure the landmark 1994 Northwest Forest Plan.

Oregon Wild has also been active advocating for the safe return of wolves to the state’s wilderness as a vital component of native Oregon ecosystems. The wolf OR-7, renamed “Journey,” recently became the first wolf in decades to cross into California from Oregon in decades, and his path across wilderness areas and connected habitat clearly demonstrates the success of setting aside vast tracts of land as wilderness for native species, inherently valuable in its own natural, benign way.

Wild mountain lupine, Mt. Hood National Forest.

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Summit marker atop the "Lightning Rod of the Cascades," Oregon's Mt. Thielsen.

Father and son plan the next day's wilderness hike at Timberline Lodge.


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