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Atkinson hopes to rid rivers and streams of angling debris

A Southern Oregon legislator is trying to create a voluntary river clean-up program targeting Oregon's discarded fishing line and lead weights, and the Rogue River would be one of the first locations for it.

State Sen. Jason Atkinson, R-Jacksonville, has drafted a bill to create the Keep Oregon Rivers Clean program to rid rivers of angling debris known to kill or injure dozens of animals annually statewide as well as create toxic eyesores for the public.

Modeled after a successful program in Alaska, the Oregon program would place metal boxes on poles at boat ramps and heavily used angling access points, with signs encouraging anglers to collect and dispose of all excess line, lures, weights and leaders.

We've had a lot of enthusiasm for it, so we decided to go with it, Atkinson says. The volunteers will really get involved and promote why this is important.

The boxes would be bought and manned by the volunteer groups. They would get support from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, which would be responsible for disposal of the debris. Usable items would be recycled, according to the bill's draft.

The metal boxes would be used instead of garbage cans to differentiate between fishing debris from standard garbage, Atkinson says.

The bill, which likely will be labeled as Senate Bill 748, calls for a pilot program to begin on the Rogue, the North Santiam and four other unspecified rivers.

The program would not cost any extra money, Atkinson says, and it would expand if proven successful.

If adopted by the Legislature, the ODFW would have to monitor its successes and report its impacts to the Legislature in 2005. The program would sunset in 2008.

Oregon already has a loosely run Adopt a River program in which volunteers collect streamside garbage.

Atkinson's bill comes as more states and Canadian provinces are moving to restrict some angling equipment because of increased awareness of the environmental dangers of such equipment left in and around waterways.

Lead fishing weights are banned in all of New Hampshire as well as Yellowstone National Park and several provincial parks in Canada. Lead is toxic and is known to kill loons, raptors and other birds that ingest it. A 1992 study concluded that half the recorded loon deaths in New England were attributed to lead.

Ospreys and other birds also are known to become entangled in discarded monofilament line, which can be difficult to see. New fluorocarbon leaders take hundreds of years to decompose.

Under federal law, anyone whose discarded fishing line injures or kills a bird can be prosecuted, but the cases are rare in part because of the difficulty in tracing the lethal line to the angler.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail