Blumenauer Introduces Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge Recreation Enhancement and Conservation Act

Monday, May 9, 2022

CONTACT: Hillary Barbour 503.577.8874

Bill Contains First in Nation Tribal Co-Management Provision to Support Treaty Rights

PORTLAND, OR – Today, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) introduced the Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge Recreation Enhancement and Conservation (REC) Act. The bill contains a groundbreaking model of tribal co-management directing the Forest Service to co-develop a management plan with the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs to protect and enhance Tribal Treaty resources within agreed-upon Treaty Resource Emphasis Zones. The co-management plan will be developed with public input, subject to all existing environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act. The legislation also enhances recreation, transportation, and conservation on Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge.

“Since 2002, when we began planning the first Mt. Hood Summit, I have listened carefully to hundreds of stakeholders and reviewed thousands of comments from people who live, work, and play in and around Mt. Hood and the Gorge. Everyone wants these areas and the benefits they provide to be preserved and enhanced for future generations. My intention has always been to build trust and collaboration among stakeholders and strike a balance for the many needs that we rely on Mt. Hood and the Gorge to fulfill,” said Blumenauer.

“We also recognize that the federal government must improve its partnership with Native Americans,“ continued Blumenauer, “By working in partnership with Tribes to co-manage land and improve their ability to exercise Treaty rights, we advance the stewardship and conservation of public lands. I am very pleased that our bill contains this first-in-the-nation provision that allows for federal-Tribal co-management of Treaty Resource Emphasis Zones.”

The bill also addresses the need for greater recreation planning and management both on Mt. Hood and in the Columbia River Gorge, both of which have seen skyrocketing use over recent years. The proposed 350,000 acre expanded National Recreation Area will prioritize resources to accommodate the growing number of people visiting the area for recreational purposes. The bill requires a sustainable recreation management plan, including considerations for sustainable recreation, transportation, public safety, natural resource protection and enhancement, and other uses. The bill similarly requires a sustainable recreation management plan for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, with considerations for socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable recreation, recreation planning, and recreation infrastructure. The plans will be developed with public review and community involvement, including consultation with Tribal sovereigns.

The bill’s transportation section complements the sustainable recreation management planning efforts by creating Access Committees for the Mt. Hood National Forest and the Columbia River Gorge. The Committees will create comprehensive, coordinated, multi-jurisdictional plans to improve safe, equitable, and ecologically sustainable access to Mt. Hood and the Gorge. These plans will prioritize reliable and user-friendly transportation and transit options; reduction of congestion on roadways; improvement for recreational access, public safety, and emergency personnel access; and sustainable funding. The Committees will submit the plans to Congress and the appropriate state legislatures.

Wildfire is an ever-present reality on Mt. Hood and in the Gorge. The bill requires a wildfire risk assessment for the Mount Hood National Forest, the Columbia River Gorge, and any private, state, or tribal land adjacent to those areas. The assessment will evaluate possible sources of ignition, estimated impacts to natural resources, Tribal Treaty resources, and infrastructure, as well as contributing factors such as climate change and fire suppression. It also includes a plan to implement cost-effective, non-commercial, science-based restoration treatments and wildfire mitigation techniques informed by traditional indigenous ecological knowledge to improve wildfire resilience and reduce wildfire risk and damage.

In addition, the bill designates over 7,500 acres of proposed Wilderness, 93 new miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers, and ensures adequate management and protection of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, building on the conservation enhancements in the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009.

The bill also includes authorized appropriations which will help ensure that these priorities and projects do not become unfunded mandates for the Forest Service. It will improve search and rescue and other emergency response on the Mount Hood National Forest and in the Columbia River Gorge by creating a pathway for reimbursement of local public agencies who perform these essential services on federal public land.

The bill will be heard in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 at 2:00 pm ET, in Room 1324 Longworth House Office Building. The hearing is also available for streaming at: Bobby Brunoe, Natural Resources Manager for the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, will testify in support of the bill at the hearing.

Congressman Blumenauer will continue to work collaboratively with stakeholders across the region to refine the legislation through the legislative process. He has opened a public comment portal on his website to accept ongoing feedback.

“The people of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs have lived since time immemorial within and around what is today the Mount Hood National Forest. Our 1855 treaty reserves our rights to fish, hunt, and gather our cultural foods. We exercise these rights on the Mt Hood National Forest. As the largest neighbor to the National Forest, our reservation is impacted by wildfire threats to our own forest and communities.  Rep. Blumenauer’s legislation respects our history and ongoing relationship with the Mt. Hood National Forest.  More importantly, the legislation ensures that tribal interests and traditional ecological knowledge are integrated into forest management for the benefit of all Oregonians.” -Jonathan Smith, Chairman of the Tribal Council for the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs

“Bark has been closely following the development of the Legislation being introduced by Blumenauer’s office which would massively expand National Recreation Areas on Mt. Hood, improve co-stewardship with the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, improve recreation access and infrastructure on Mt. Hood and much more. This legislation provides a crucial opportunity to explore how new National Recreation Areas are managed and whether these areas will be used to prioritize natural ecological processes, carbon sequestration, and indigenous sovereignty.  We look forward to staying engaged in this process to ensure this legislation upholds these values. ” -Cara Christofferson, Forest Policy Advocacy Coordinator, Bark

“Congressman Blumenauer’s proposed legislation advances the recognition of tribal sovereignty and treaty rights on federal lands in three important ways.  First, it expands the definition of best available science to include indigenous knowledge, overcoming a serious deficiency in the Northwest Forest Plan and related forest and project plans.  Second, it sets up a co-management structure for Treaty Resources Emphasis Zones that should advance the inclusion of Tribal goals and knowledge in planning and management.  Third, it highlights the existing commitment (from previous legislation) to the Cultural Foods Obligation; rapid implementation of that commitment could serve as a testing ground for broader co-management.” -K. Norman Johnson, Emeritus Professor in the College of Forestry, Oregon State University

“The Western Environmental Law Center congratulates Congressman Blumenauer and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs on the introduction of the Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge Recreation Enhancement and Conservation Act.  It is past time for the federal government to reaffirm and fulfill its obligations to protect and steward Treaty resources, and the legislation is a first step towards authentic co-management of those Treaty resources, including cultural foods, on the Mount Hood National Forest.  WELC also applauds the use of traditional ecological science and knowledge to develop and implement a restoration strategy to conserve Treaty resources at risk from wildfires and other stressors driven by a warming climate.  The Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge Recreation Enhancement and Conservation Act is a bold blueprint for federal land management agencies to deliver on the federal trust responsibility owed to Indigenous peoples across this country.” -Susan Jane Brown, Wildlands Program Director & Staff Attorney, Western Environmental Law Center

“Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge offer unparalleled recreation opportunities for Oregonians, Washingtonians, and visitors. We are thrilled with Congressman Blumenauer’s Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge Recreation Enhancement and Conservation Act and grateful for his leadership to protect the region. The bill enhances conservation and recreation and honors Tribal treaty rights. We are particularly pleased with the provisions to create more sustainable trails and recreation opportunities, support Tribal co-management, improve equitable access to Mt. Hood and its trails systems, protect the Pacific Crest Trail, designate Wild & Scenic Rivers, improve transportation, and expand Wilderness around Mt. Hood. Outdoor Alliance is grateful to Congressman Blumenauer for being a true champion of conservation and for his work to protect and improve outdoor recreation opportunities.” -Louis Geltman, Policy Director, Outdoor Alliance

“The Mt. Hood REC Act of 2022 is a transformational model for public land conservation—centering the importance of sustainable recreation experiences and wildfire resilience—across the treasured landscapes of Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. The Oregon Mountain Biking Coalition applauds Congressman Blumenauer for introducing this legislation and is proud to partner with other supporters of recreation in championing this new vision for expanding equitable access to the outdoors for all Oregonians.”  -Nathan Kuder, Board President, Oregon Mountain Biking Coalition 

“The Gorge is loved and in some places, over loved. This legislation takes a critical step in bringing sustainable recreation and better transportation options to the Gorge. We look forward to working with Congressman Blumenauer to continue to improve his bill for both the Gorge and Mt. Hood.” -Kevin Gorman, Executive Director, Friends of the Columbia Gorge

“The Port of Cascade Locks wants to extend its appreciation to you for the time and effort that you and your staff have invested in drafting legislation that attempts to address many long-standing concerns within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. This is the first time since the Scenic Act became law in 1986, that the Federal Government has considered legislation that is specifically intended to enhance the quality of life within the Scenic Area for local residents and the visitors that come to the Gorge to experience its world-class natural attractions. We applaud the effort and believe that the draft is a good start towards accomplishing something meaningful for the region. We look forward to working with your office to share our thoughts about how this draft can become legislation that effectively addresses the key challenges that currently exist including transportation and recreation infrastructure, public safety and natural resource preservation.” -Jess Groves, President, Port of Cascade Locks

A full list of organizations and businesses supporting the bill is below:

  • American Rivers
  • American Whitewater
  • Backcountry Horsemen of Oregon
  • Bark
  • Columbia Area Transit
  • Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs
  • Friends of the Columbia Gorge
  • Government Camp CPO Chair
  • Hood River County Board of Commissioners
  • Hood River County Sheriff
  • Lost Lake Resort
  • Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp
  • Mt. Hood Meadows
  • K. Norman Johnson, Emeritus Professor, College of Forestry, Oregon State University
  • Oregon Mountain Biking Coalition
  • Oregon Equestrian Trails
  • Oregon Solutions
  • Oregon Trails Coalition
  • Outdoor Alliance
  • Pacific Crest Trail Alliance
  • Port of Cascade Locks
  • REI
  • Rhododendron Water Association
  • Sustainable Northwest
  • Teacup Nordic
  • Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
  • Timberline
  • Trailkeepers of Oregon
  • Travel Oregon
  • ViveNW
  • Western Environmental Law Center