Oregonians must help preserve endangered places (opinion)

By Guest Columnist
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on July 11, 2016 at 12:21 PM

By Sean Davis

I grew up in the Cascade Mountains, and we didn’t fish or hunt for recreation; we did it to supplement our monthly grocery run into town. The mountains and trees weren’t just beautiful places to hike; my dad and my uncles were loggers, and they planted just as many trees as they cut down. The wilderness wasn’t just a beautiful place to grow up; it was my life. Later in life, I joined the military to fight for our country.

Today, I’m fighting with the Vet Voice Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts for our country. This means passing the Oregon Wildlands Act, the Frank Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary Designation Act, and getting the president to declare the Owyhee Canyonlands a national monument.

The Oregon Wildlands Act was introduced by Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. It would provide new environmental protections for 250 miles of river and approximately 200,000 acres of land. This act would create the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness Area on the Central Coast Range in a remote canyon of old-growth forest (about 30,000 acres), and it would protect 14.5 miles of the Wasson and Franklin creeks that run through the area. The same bill would create a 95,000-acre Rogue Canyon National Recreation Area and expand the Wild Rogue Wilderness by 56,000 acres.

The Frank Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary Designation Act has gotten hardly any press at all, and that’s a shame. Frank Moore is a World War II veteran who actually stormed the beaches of Normandy during D-Day. He came home and has fought to protect his land through conservation ever since. His life is a personal inspiration. This bill was co-introduced by both of Oregon’s senators.

It’s great that Wyden and Merkley co-introduced these bills, but the truth is we need a champion for it to get passed. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., has put together his own individual bills for the wildlands in his district, and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., is incredibly supportive, but we need more.

Not only is it incredibly hard to get a bill through Congress, but President Obama only has six months left in office. If the next president is Donald Trump (God help us all) we will not only have to go back to the drawing board, we’ll have to smash the drawing board into small pieces, then burn it and somehow build a new one from scavenged parts. And even if the next president is a Democrat, we’ll have to start all over. Now is the time to act.

Owyhee Canyonlands is a bit more difficult. We’re asking to protect 2.5 million acres of land that has more geographic and wildlife diversity in one region than almost anywhere else on the planet. It is unique right down to its microbes and it’s home for over 200 wildlife species. It has grass plains, rivers, distinctive soils and rare blooms. This ecosystem is so fragile that you can still see wagon wheel tracks from over 100 years ago.

Nearly half of Oregon is desert, and only 1 percent of that desert is permanently protected today from development, mining and fracking. We are asking our congressional representatives to talk to Secretary Sally Jewell, the head of the Department of the Interior, and tell her that we want to declare Owyhee Canyonlands a national monument.

So, what can you do? Read this and share. Not only will it get the word out, but it shows the congressional staffers that people are paying attention. They have people whose job it is to read every article like this and see how far it goes. Decisions are made in this way.

The next thing you can do is go to the websites and sign petitions. I know, we all ask how effective web-based petitions are. But if we get the numbers, we’ll get attention.

And finally, thank Sens. Wyden and Merkley for backing these bills and Merkley for heading up the “Keep It In The Ground” campaign.

But telling them it isn’t enough. We need more.

Oregon is a special place. Its beauty rivals anywhere else on the planet. I believe it’s our responsibility as residents to do our part to protect that beauty. I hope you do, too.

Sean Davis lives in Portland.

in The Oregonian (http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/07/oregonians_must_help_preserve.html) to follow comments, which there are a lot of.

By Sean Davis

Sean Davis is the author of The Wax Bullet War, a Purple Heart Iraq War veteran, and the winner of the Legionnaire of the Year Award from the American Legion in 2015 and the recipient of the Emily Gottfried Emerging Leader, Human Rights award for 2016. His stories, essays, and articles have appeared in the the Ted Talk Book The Misfit’s Manifesto (Simon and Schuster), Forest Avenue Press anthology City of Weird, Sixty Minutes, Story Corps, Flaunt Magazine, The Big Smoke, Human the movie, and much more.

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