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New Forest Service funding includes $975K for more Crooked River Gorge access

Sunrise at the Crooked River Gorge looking at Grey Butte and Smith Rock
Ken Albrandt
Sunrise at the Crooked River Gorge looking at Grey Butte and Smith Rock

WASHINGTON (KTVZ) -- Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announced Wednesday that over $5 million in federal funding is being distributed among conservation projects in the Siuslaw, Ochoco and Wallowa-Whitman national forests.

The funding is being allocated by the U.S. Forest Service’s portion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and was made possible by the Great American Outdoors Act—legislation introduced and championed by Merkley and Wyden.

“Oregon’s forests and waters are among our most precious treasures, and we have a responsibility to make sure we’re protecting and maintaining them,” said Merkley, who serves as the chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Forest Service and allocates LWCF projects funded by the Great American Outdoors Act.

“When we’re responsible stewards of our lands and waters, we all benefit—from hikers, anglers, and hunters to local business owners, workers, and community members. I’m grateful that we were able to secure this federal support, and thank all of the Oregonians who are on the ground, day in and day out, completing the work that will help conserve Oregon’s special places for generations to come.”

“These federal resources for the Siuslaw, Ochoco and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests ensure these key pieces of our state’s world-renowned natural riches will be protected and kept up for all Oregonians and all Americans who come to visit these gems,” Wyden said. “This is great news for everybody who enjoys getting outdoors and the local recreation businesses that create jobs throughout Oregon. And it’s exactly the kind of investment I expected the Great American Outdoors Act to generate when I worked with colleagues to pass that legislation.” 

Of the total amount, $3,298,263 is headed to the Wasson Forest within the Siuslaw National Forest, to support the completion of a three-phase land acquisition near Reedsport, in partnership with EcoTrust.

Another $1,100,000 of the funding is being allocated to Elk Creek conservation efforts in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. In partnership with the Western Rivers Conservancy, the project will improve recreation access and camping opportunities along the Elk and Crow Creeks near Enterprise.

Also, $975,000 of the funding is being distributed for conservation efforts in the Crooked River Gorge on the Ochoco National Forest. The project, which is being completed in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, will improve recreation and river access for hiking, hunting and paddling on the Crooked Wild and Scenic River Corridor near Redmond.

Ochoco National Forest Public Affairs Officer Kassidy Kern said the funds will be used for acquiring a parcel that is part of a larger land base in the middle of the state’s most formidable deep canyons, created by the Crooked and Deschutes rivers.

The acreage, in the Crooked River Wild and Scenic River corridor, is habitat for threatened and endangered species, as well as regional (Pacific Northwest) sensitive species. It has several documented historically assets and boasts unique recreation opportunities in a dramatic remote gorge, and has garnered community support for inclusion.

Kern said recently she could not yet provide further details, but with funding now assured, negotiations are planned with the current landowner.

"We're really encouraged by this, but we're not at the finish line yet," she said.

Article Topic Follows: Crook County

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