Washington D.C., Feb 26 — By a 227 to 200 vote, today the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act, (SOWSPA) amended to House Bill 803, the Protect America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act. SOWSPA, introduced by Representatives DeFazio (D-OR) and Huffman (D-CA), calls for a temporary mineral withdrawal in the area to be made permanent. It now goes to the Senate, where Oregon Senators Wyden and Merkley will push for its passage.
A broad coalition of tribes, local governments, local businesses, conservation groups, sportsmen and commercial fishermen came together to protect the area’s Wild and Scenic Rivers, world class fisheries, and exceptional recreational opportunities from the threat of mining in the headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Smith, Rogue and Illinois rivers and Hunter Creek and North Fork Pistol rivers. In 2016, the Obama Administration approved the 20-year Southwestern Oregon Mineral Withdrawal to provide interim protection for 101,000 acres of river-rich National Forest and BLM lands. Communities in this remote corner of Northwest California and Southwest Oregon depend on these rivers for drinking water, outdoor-recreation, a fishing and tourism-based economy, and rural way of life.