By Zachary Collier
Last week the House of Representatives passed the Natural Resources Management Act, which includes protections for public lands and rivers here in Southern Oregon. As an outfitter on the Rogue and Chetco Rivers, I am particularly appreciative of the additional protections these rivers will receive once President Trump signs this legislation.
Here in Southern Oregon, the act adds Wild and Scenic River protections to tributaries of the Rogue and Elk Rivers. It also protects the Chetco River from new mining claims. These protections are important for my business, which brings hundreds of people to the Rogue and Chetco Rivers each summer.
Many visitors of these protected rivers stay at hotels and eat at restaurants in Brookings and Gold Beach. My livelihood and the livelihood of many other guides, outfitters and local businesses depend on a healthy river corridor and fish populations. The Rogue River, in particular, is a major economic driver for much of Southern Oregon.
Recently I have read some opinions claiming that we should not protect these iconic watersheds in order to make fighting wildfires easier. Although there are sometimes small paperwork hurdles involved with fighting fires in protected areas, these activities are common and fires can be managed and suppressed when needed in wilderness areas and along Wild and Scenic Rivers
My business also outfits rafting trips on the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork of the Salmon River through Idaho’s 2.4 million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Fires are common in this wilderness area and we regularly raft by firefighters managing active forest fires. Managing forest fires in federally designated wilderness is common around the West and should not be a barrier to protecting places that are so important to our local economy and livelihoods.
I am appreciative of Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley as well as Representatives Kurt Schrader and Pete DeFazio for working hard to secure important protections Oregonians want for federal public lands and rivers in Oregon. Our congressional delegation has worked together for many years to make this happen.
Over my career as a guide and outfitter, I have traveled the world exploring rivers and it’s my opinion that the rivers of Southern Oregon are the most unique and beautiful in the world. I personally think they should be protected simply because they are so special. We should all want them protected because of what they provide for Oregon’s economy.
Zachary Collier is the owner of Northwest Rafting Company (https://www.nwrafting.com,) a river outfitter on the Rogue, Owyhee, Chetco, Illinois and Salmon Rivers.