|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||June 18, 2008|
|Contact:||Sean Smith, National Parks Conservation Association: 206-903-1444 ext. 21
Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center: 541-488-5789
Greg Walters, Jefferson State Financial: 541-592-6262
Congress Proposes to Enhance Protections for Oregon Caves National Monument
Grants Pass, OR - In order to expand economic development opportunities, increase recreation and protect the drinking water for some 80,000 visitors a year, Congress is proposing to enhance protections for the Oregon Caves National Monument in southwest Oregon. The legislation, introduced today, would add approximately 4,000 acres to the Monument by transferring land from the U.S. Forest Service to the National Park Service.
Known primarily for its vast marble caves, the 480-acre Monument was established in 1909 by proclamation of President William Howard Taft. The National Park Service formally proposed adjusting the Monument boundary to encompass nearby caves and the surrounding Cave Creek Watershed several times - first in 1939, then in 1949, and most recently in 2000.
The legislation would also designate about seven miles of streams within the Monument as "wild," "scenic," or "recreational" under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, including the River Styx, which would be the first underground river in the country to receive such designation. This sub-surface stream maintains many of the caves’ unique features.
"The increased protections for the Oregon Caves are a long time in coming, and we are extremely pleased," said Sean Smith of the National Parks Conservation Association. "This legislation recognizes Oregon Caves as an extraordinary national treasure and ensures that it remains protected for our children and grandchildren."
The proposal would also protect the drinking water of the Monument from possible contamination from cattle by allowing the buyout of grazing permits within the expanded boundary and upstream watershed. Grazing has long been a concern of the Park Service, which collects its water from a surface stream that flows through the Bigelow Lakes Botanical Area at the heart of the allotment. Funds for the buyout would come from private sources, and all parties involved are agreeable to the proposed grazing retirement.
"We are working with the rancher to come up with a solution that works for everyone," said Joseph Vaile of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. "The Monument and the local economy will be enhanced by this proposal. In order to make it a reality, the rancher needs to be compensated for the money he stands to lose from his investment in the operation. We’re doing everything in our power to make sure that happens."
The legislation, which is part of the Oregon Treasures legislative package, also encourages restoration that would enhance the Monument’s forest to make it more fire resilient. Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers protections are also included for Mount Hood, as well as Wild and Scenic protections for tributaries to the Rogue River.
"I want to thank Representative DeFazio and Senator Wyden for championing this legislation that will greatly benefit the communities in Josephine County," said Greg Walters, Cave Junction resident, historian, and co-owner of Jefferson State Financial, a local insurance company.
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