HOUSE VOTES UNANIMOUSLY TO STRENGTHEN ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTIONS ON THE UPPER DESCHUTES RIVER

BEND, OR – It's Unanimous.

The Oregon Legislature took another step forward in environmental protection, uniting conservationists and homeowners in Central Oregon. The House voted 54-0 to ban new bridge construction in a sensitive portion of the Upper Deschutes Scenic Waterway.

The issues are clear, as are BPRD's actions. In spite of BPRD's Chairman Ted Schoenborn’s lobbying, the entire voting legislative body sent a message loud and clear. Keep your hands off the State Scenic Waterway in the Upper Deschutes. No Bridges Period!

"It's amazing in this day and age of such partisan bickering Oregonians came together to protect our environment and private property from an agency out of control." Said Tim Phillips a member of the Upper Deschutes Conservation Council. "We expect BPRD will still not get the message and continue to advance their agenda over long standing environmental protections."

BPRD will likely try to usurp environmental groups, private landowners and the entire Oregon House of Representatives all in the name of watering down long standing environmental laws.

HB 2027-A strengthens environmental protections under the Oregon Scenic Waterways Act by prohibiting new bridge construction in a portion of the Upper Deschutes Scenic Waterway. This bill directly follows the advice of a 2015 Oregon Fish and Wildlife opinion explicitly opposing new bridges and heavy recreational use in this area. The subject area contains critical habitat for the ESA threatened Oregon spotted frog, and was identified by ODFW as containing vital wintering habitat for rocky mountain elk and mule deer. HB 2027-A has been broadly supported by Central Oregon conservation groups and homeowners.

REPRESENTATIVES WHISNANT AND CLEM SUPPORT LOCAL CONSERVATIONIST EFFORTS

BEND, OR – The House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources has voted unanimously to pass a bill strengthening environmental protections under the Oregon Scenic Waterways Act. In doing so, members of the committee have sent a message to a local parks district brazenly operating in contravention of state biologists and the Oregon Scenic Waterways Act. HB 2027-1 represents a bi-partisan effort by representatives Brian Clem and Gene Whisnant to support Bend conservationists who have been excluded and disregarded by the Bend Park and Recreation District.

Spearheaded by conservationists, environmentalists, scientists, and landowners, HB 2027-1 aims to strengthen environmental protections in the Upper Deschutes Scenic Waterway. Specifically, this bill aims to elevate a longstanding prohibition on new bridges in undeveloped natural areas along the Deschutes. This bridge prohibition has existed for over 20 years, and is founded in the Upper Deschutes Comprehensive Management Plan: a collaborative state and federal effort to protect the Upper Deschutes.

Citizens and environmental groups have been concerned that new BPRD bridges in undeveloped areas will create adverse environmental impacts through high user traffic. During a 2015 OPRD rulemaking and comment process, comments opposed to abolishing the bridge prohibition significantly outnumbered comments in favor. Just this month, prominent environmental group Oregon Wild submitted a letter to OPRD opposing abolishment of the Upper Deschutes bridge prohibition.

BPRD BOARD VOTES TO OPPOSE STRENGTHENED ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTIONS ON THE UPPER DESCHUTES RIVER

BEND, OR – The Bend Park and Recreation Board (members Ted Schoenborn, Nathan Hovekamp, Craig Chenoweth, Ellen Grover, and Brady Fuller) has voted unanimously to oppose a bill that would strengthen environmental protections under the Oregon Scenic Waterways Act.

Bend conservationists have introduced a bill in the Oregon House of Representatives to strengthen environmental protections Upper Deschutes Scenic Waterway. Specifically, HB 2027-1 aims to elevate a longstanding prohibition on new bridges in undeveloped natural areas along the Deschutes. This bridge prohibition has existed for over 20 years, and is founded in the Upper Deschutes Comprehensive Management Plan: a collaborative state and federal effort to protect the Upper Deschutes. Biologists at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife expressly opposed abolishment of the bridge prohibition during a 2015 rulemaking process instituted by the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation, and at the request of the Bend Park and Recreation District. ODFW found that a significant increase in user traffic and dogs would adversely impact critical wintering ground for deer and elk. In addition, the affected area of the Deschutes contains wetlands and habitat for the federally threatened Oregon spotted frog.

At the heart of the issue is a BPRD agenda to construct a high-use bridge and trail in the Upper Deschutes Scenic Waterway. Conservationists and environmental groups have expressed concern that new bridges in undeveloped areas will create adverse environmental impacts through high user traffic. During the 2015 OPRD rulemaking and comment process, comments opposed to abolishing the bridge prohibition significantly outnumbered comments in favor. OPRD has also noted that development of BPRD’s proposed high-use bridge and trail would harm scenic waterway values. Just this month, prominent environmental group Oregon Wild submitted a letter to OPRD opposing abolishment of the Upper Deschutes bridge prohibition.

Although BPRD claims to be in favor of public process, Don Horton of BPRD has referred to the public as “ill-informed,” and public exclusion issues have complicated the recent “Upper Deschutes Advisory Group” or UDAG. At the outset of UDAG, Community Solutions of Central Oregon (a private company hired to execute UDAG) referred to interested—but uninvited— members of the public as “UDAG crashers.” BPRD emails also indicate that Don Horton of BPRD expressed frustration when informed that members of the public would be allowed to give input through UDAG.

BPRD’s conduct surrounding its proposed bridge and trail has also been questionable. BPRD has also acknowledged its intent to deprive unwilling riparian property owners of their land by using eminent domain. Further, BPRD has noted in internal emails that public bond funding for the proposed bridge will be exhausted by the time construction actually occurs Finally, BPRD has confirmed that it intends to invoke a non-conforming use provision of the Oregon Scenic Waterways Act to circumvent environmental law, should OPRD decline to abolish the Upper Deschutes Bridge Prohibition.