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On Wednesday, May 24, I attended Senator Wyden’s town hall at North Valley High School in Merlin and had the opportunity to thank him for his ongoing efforts to pass two public lands bills: the River Democracy Act and the Oregon Recreational Enhancement Act. Both bills enhance recreation on wild rivers in southwestern Oregon like the Wild and Scenic Rogue and Illinois Rivers and also prevent toxic mining that would spoil our wild salmon and steelhead runs, and drinking water sources. In recent years, the Grants Pass Daily Courier’s own online poll
showed that 81% of respondents in the region support the River Democracy Act. This bill would extend Wild & Scenic River protections to several key tributaries of the Illinois River in Josephine County, and to other coastal tributaries on the Chetco, Winchuck and Rogue.
The mainstem Illinois and Rogue Rivers are the heart of a vibrant recreation-based economy and tourism in this part of the state, and economic studies show river-based recreation contributes more than $40 million annually to our local economy.
I grew up in Josephine County, and my home waters are priceless. We can’t let mining speculators or timber lobbyists dictate what happens to these public lands. Access to public lands and rivers is what makes living in southern Oregon so great, and I encourage community members to support the Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act and River Democracy Act for the betterment of our rural communities.