Mt. Hood Land Exchange Clarification Bill Ready for President’s Pen
Legislation written by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Representatives Greg
Walden, R-Ore., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., to protect and enhance Oregon’s land conservation and recreation priorities on Mt. Hood passed the Senate unanimously on December 21, 2017. The House of Representatives passed the bill in February on a 415-1 vote. The bill now goes to the president to be signed into law.
Wyden, Merkley, Walden and Blumenauer introduced the Mt. Hood Cooper Spur Land Exchange Clarification Act in the Senate and House earlier this year to help resolve a nearly nine-year-long dispute over proposed land development on the northeast side of Mt. Hood.
Hood River Valley Residents Committee executive director Heather Staten expressed our gratitude on getting the bill passed, “We have been working on this historic solution for more than 15 years, and we are very thankful to have the support of Oregon’s Congressional delegation for these community-led efforts. This land exchange is going to protect the Crystal Springs Watershed, it will create new Wilderness on the north side of Mt. Hood, and it will support the economies of both Hood River and Government Camp.”
Bi-partisan Support of Oregon’s Congressional Delegation
“At long last, the Mt. Hood community will have the development and preservation my colleagues and I have been pushing for,” Merkley said. “This bill will help to preserve unique and beautiful wilderness areas on Mt. Hood while also creating new economic opportunities in the surrounding community.”“I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both houses of Congress to put this long overdue land exchange in the history books,” Wyden said. “Our soon-to-be-law closes this frustrating chapter of Mt. Hood’s past and makes it possible for the local community to finally go forward with wilderness protections and responsible development so wildlife and visitors can enjoy Mt. Hood far into the future.”
“Completing the Cooper Spur land exchange is key to protecting Crystal Springs, the water source for the City of Hood River and the upper Hood River Valley, while also encouraging economic and job growth around Mt. Hood,” Walden said. “These communities have waited nearly nine years for the Forest Service to complete the exchange Congress gave them 16 months to finish. This is long past due and I look forward to President Trump signing this bill into law so the job can finally get done.”
“The land exchange is the culmination of years of work to protect important habitat and recreational opportunities on Mt. Hood,” Blumenauer said. “This legislation is important for the future of the mountain, and I welcome its passage.”
Details of the Act and Next Steps
The Mt. Hood Cooper Spur Land Exchange Clarification Act allows development of approximately 100 acres near Government Camp while protecting more than 700 acres on the north side.
Congress passed a broad public lands bill in 2009 that included the Mt. Hood land exchange as part of the Mt. Hood Wilderness designation. That law directed the U.S. Forest Service to complete the exchange within 16 months. However, multiple delays since then passed have stalled conservation and development, frustrated the local community and sparked a lawsuit against the Forest Service.
The last piece of the puzzle is for the Forest Service and Mt Hood Meadows to agree on the final details of the land exchange to equalize the values. This legislation provides additional tools and sideboards to ensure that the north side of Mt. Hood is fully protected as always intended and that Mt. Hood Meadows focuses new development in Government Camp. HRVRC calls on the Forest Service and Mt. Hood Meadows to wrap this up now.