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Gov. wants Wild Rogue listed as a 'crown jewel'

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has sent a natural-treasures wish list to Uncle Sam that includes a portion of the Lower Rogue River drainage.

In a Sept. 27 letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Ed Shepard, state director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Oregon, Kitzhaber nominated the proposed 58,000-acre Wild Rogue wilderness area in the BLM's Medford District as a national "Crown Jewel."

He also included the proposed 30,000-acre Devil's Staircase wilderness area in the agency's Coos Bay District and the 8,200-acre Cathedral Rock and 8,900-acre Horse Heaven wilderness areas in the Prineville District. All four sites have been proposed as wilderness areas in Congress.

Kitzhaber was reacting to a request Salazar made early this summer for state governors and congressional representative to send him potential "Crown Jewel" natural treasures in each state to be reviewed as potential wilderness areas.

In his letter, the governor wrote the four sites represent the state's diverse natural beauty. He noted the proposed Wild Rogue was introduced in two previous congresses as a national wild and scenic rivers package. It was modified last year to address timber-interest concerns, he noted.

"The resulting compromise includes 58,000 acres of wilderness located in the Siskiyou Mountains of southwest Oregon in an area of the Rogue River known for world-class rafting, fishing and renowned salmon runs," he wrote. "This proposal has significant support from the business community, which relies heavily on the Rogue River for its economic prosperity."

The proposed wilderness area is downriver from the mouth of Grave Creek in the lower section of the river.

In addition to those proposed wilderness areas, Kitzhaber indicated he supported protecting other areas of BLM forestland, including expanding the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in the mountains east of Ashland. He noted that various scientists have called for its expansion to "better safeguard protection of the area's unique biological values."

In a June 10 letter to Congress, Salazar asked for wilderness areas on BLM land where there is "strong support in the local community and among elected officials for permanent protection, and that you believe are ready for designation as wilderness by this Congress."

Among the examples he cited was the Devil's Staircase Wilderness Act submitted by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield.

Salazar added that he would present a list of "Crown Jewel" recommendations to Congress by Oct. 15.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.