President Clinton: Preserving Oregon's Natural Treasures
Today, President Clinton today signed legislation providing additional protections for 425,000 acres of federal land in southeastern Oregon, marking a bipartisan effort that brought together local ranchers and environmentalists. The President signed the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act, safeguarding an extraordinary landscape in southeastern Oregon -- wild rivers, volcanic uplifts, canyons, sand dunes and a rich diversity of plant and animal species -- and a way of life for all who live there, proving again that a strong economy and a healthy environment can go together.
A Partnership to Preserve the "American West"
The bipartisan legislation establishes additional protections for 425,000 acres of public land in southeastern Oregon. An advisory council including local ranchers, environmentalists, and recreational users will work with federal land managers on new approaches to meet the area's human and ecological needs. Specifically, the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management Protection Act accomplishes the following:
- provides wilderness protection to 156,000 acres of the most pristine areas, ending cattle grazing on these lands;
- places nearly 900,000 acres (including the areas described above) off limits to new mining and mineral leasing;
- limits off highway vehicles to specific roads and trails;
- allows grazing, recreation, historic, and other uses in areas where they are sustainable;
- protects two new "wild" rivers, Wildhorse and Kiger Creek; and
- provides for voluntary agreements with private landowners to acquire some of the most fragile lands within the Steens Mountain area.
Today's action enjoys broad local support among ranchers, property owners, and environmentalists. The President acknowledged the efforts of Secretary Babbitt, Oregon Senators Wyden and Smith, Representatives Walden, Hooley and DeFazio and the entire Oregon congressional delegation, Governor Kitzhaber, community landowners and officials, and local ranching and environmental organizations. The Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act represents a unique agreement to protect Oregon's natural resources and heritage for this and future generations.
Protecting "The Steens," an American Treasure
Steens Mountain, often called "The Steens," is a 30-mile-long fault block, thrust a mile upward 15 million years ago when layers of basalt gave way under the pressures caused by the Earth's cooling and contracting. The tilting of the fault block to the west resulted in a rugged eastern face rising to the escarpment at 9,773 feet, one vertical mile above the Alvord Desert in a horizontal distance of approximately three miles.
Fourteen million years later, glaciers carved the mountain, moving down the Blitzen, Wildhorse Kiger, and Indian Creek valleys, resulting in the present U-shaped gorges. Complete erosion took place at one location between the western and eastern faces. The rugged eastern face of the Steens contrasts with the gentle western slope that gradually descends into the Blitzen and Catlow valleys.
A Commitment to a Healthy Environment and Strong Economy
Under the leadership of President Clinton and Vice President Gore, America is doing more than ever to ensure a safe, healthy environment for our families. Over the past seven years, the Administration has built a strong record of environmental and public health protection:
- Adopted the strongest air quality protections ever, cleaned up three times as many Superfund sites as the previous two Administrations combined, and strengthen drinking water protections for millions of Americans;
- Preserved and restored natural treasures from the Florida Everglades to the California redwoods, and on track to protect more land in the lower 48 states than any other Administration;
- Made record investments in public transit, helped hundreds of communities clean up and redevelop brownfields, and launched new efforts to help communities fight sprawl;
- Led the international community in the fight against global warming, the most profound environmental challenge we face.
Most importantly, Americans enjoy the cleanest air and water in a generation while also benefiting from the longest economic expansion in our nation's history.