WASHINGTON, D.C. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announced Tuesday his intention to advance legislation to preserve the Copper Salmon area in the Elk and Sixes river watersheds as wilderness.

Wyden has posted the text of his draft legislation, The Copper Salmon Wilderness Act, on his web site at http://wyden.senate.gov for public comment. Copies are also available at his offices.

After gathering public comment, Wyden hopes to introduce the act in January at the start of the 107th Congress.

Jim Rogers, of Friends of the Elk River, worked closely with Wydens office on the proposal.

Rogers said, The proposed Copper Salmon Wilderness contains some of the most productive chinook and coho salmon fisheries in the nation as well as some of the last remaining intact coastal old growth forest.

We applaud Sen. Wydens determination to see that this unique forest is protected once and for all by placing it in the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The Curry County commissioners and City of Port Orford have already passed resolutions supporting the wilderness designation.

Commissioner Lloyd Olds said, I appreciate Ron Wydens efforts to support the Curry County commissioners.

Although I am from a logging family, said Olds, I endorse the proposed Copper Salmon Wilderness because I realize the headwaters of the Elk River are vital to the survival of our coastal salmon runs.

Wydens draft legislation said, The fisheries of the Elk River are recognized as the best salmon and steelhead producers in the 48 contiguous states, producing more salmon per square meter than any other river outside of Alaska.

His proposal would designate 10,924 acres of the Copper Salmon area as wilderness. It would protect the North Fork of the Elk River and the Upper Middle Fork of the Sixes River.

The draft said, Although the proposed Copper Salmon Wilderness area is designated as Late Successional Reserve under the Northwest Forest Plan, that designation provides only limited temporary protection for the last remaining mammoth Port Orford cedars in Elk River.

The proposed wilderness would be adjacent to the Grassy Knob area protected by the Oregon Wilderness Act of 1984.

Over the past three years, said Wyden, I have worked with local communities from throughout Curry County to try to come up with a home-grown way to permanently protect the pristine Elk River watershed and Copper Salmon area.

I want to build on that public process by encouraging Oregonians from all walks of life to take the time over the next three months to read the proposal and give me and the rest of the Oregon delegation their input on this important decision.

The input of the local communities, as well as Sen. Smith and Rep. DeFazio, will be critical to our efforts.