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.