Expansion would protect the Oregon section of the Smith River watershed and unique plants and wildlife, boost local recreation economy

In 1990, Congress enacted legislation to establish the Smith River National Recreation Area (NRA) to protect the watershed, but the boundary of the NRA stopped at the Oregon border, leaving the North Folk of the Smith River and its tributaries unprotected.

Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden have introduced new legislation to expand the Smith River National Recreation Area by adding 58,000 acres, a move that would protect the diverse ecosystems of the rivers, streams, and adjacent lands of the North Fork Smith River watershed and help boost the local fishing and recreation industries that many Oregonian families rely on.

“When we come together to protect our state’s natural wonders, we can create jobs, protect resources, grow our economy, and make sure future generations of Oregonians can enjoy our incredible public lands,” Merkley said. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with local leaders, conservationists, and businesses to create legislation expanding the Smith River National Recreation Area—a commonsense win-win for adventurers across the Northwest, those interested in preserving the beautiful places in Oregon, and our local economy.”

“Smith River is not only home to critical salmon and steelhead habitat, it also provides clean drinking water to families along the South Coast,” Wyden said. “Protecting this special area of Oregon should be a no-brainer. Add to the fact that this legislation also allows the Forest Service to continue its work preventing and fighting wildfires and this adds up to a significant win for these communities.”

The Smith River is home to a rich assemblage of life forms—including Coho and Chinook salmon, Coastal Cutthroat trout, the diverse Siskiyou Mountains forests, unique plants found nowhere else on earth, and spectacular redwoods that tower over the lower river banks. The Smith River NRA’s scenic beauty, world-class fisheries, and exceptional water quality attract adventurers who partake in water sports, fishing, hunting, camping, and sightseeing.

The NRA expansion would permanently withdraw the land from new mining claims, helping to protect this sensitive area from proposed nickel strip mines, and protect 74 miles of scenic rivers, including Baldface Creek, Chrome Creek, and nearby streams. In addition, the legislation would task the Forest Service with the preparation of an updated recreation plan identifying specific plans for the entire National Recreation Area, and produce a special study of streams, fens, wetlands, and potentially unstable and vulnerable aquatic habitat areas. The bill complements the Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act, which was introduced by the Senators earlier this year to protect the North Fork Smith River watershed and other Southwestern Oregon rivers and streams.

To learn more, go to Permanent North Fork Protection.