Clean Water and Roadless Areas
Getting to know a river can be a lifelong journey. Like the ever
changing background of an epic story, in my life the Rogue has been a
place to gather with others, a fortress of solitude, an aid to memory,
a song, a quality of light, a cradle of dreams, a resting place, a
source of energy, a giver of joy and a receptacle of sorrow. At times
it has been a perfume, a stink, an ease, an obstacle, and always the
living heart of the valley. - Roger Dorband, from The Rogue: Portrait of a River
The lower Rogue River is one of the most stunning watersheds in the United States. It provides freshwater habitat to enormous ocean-going salmon runs and possesses flora and fauna diversity unmatched anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.
The lower Rogue was one of the original eight rivers to be designated as national treasures when Congress passed the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act in 1968. In 1970, by vote, the people of Oregon added the Rogue River to the state’s Scenic Waterways System.
While portions of the roadless lands that surround the Rogue were protected in 1978 as the Wild Rogue Wilderness Area, much of this watershed remains unprotected today. With old-growth logging slated along key tributaries of this national treasure, now is the time to protect the rest of the Wild Rogue’s roadless lands and free-flowing tributary streams for this and future generations.
The Wild Rogue Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rogue River additions are located primarily in Josephine County, with small sections in Douglas County (the headwaters of the West Fork Kelsey Creek) and Curry County (from the mouth of Kelsey Creek down river to Marial). The area sits entirely in Oregon’s 4th Congressional District.
The integrity of the congressionally designated Wild & Scenic Rogue River -– from Grave Creek to Watson Creek – is dependent upon a large expanse of wild country. The management corridor set forth by the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act only protects approximately a half-mile narrow band along the river. The wildlife a person sees while floating the Lower Rogue Wild & Scenic River or walking the Rogue River National Recreation Trail, the fish that rest in the cool water of numerous tributary streams, and the views and sense of solitude human visitors feel, are all dependent the entire wild Rogue River watershed.
The Wild Rogue Roadless Areas (Zane Grey, Whisky Creek, Grave Creek and Mule Creek units) and important lower Rogue River tributaries are approximately 26 miles northwest of Grants Pass, Oregon. The roadless areas and free flowing streams, profiled in this report, border the Wild & Scenic Rogue River for some 20 river-miles, from Grave Creek to the Rogue River Ranch near Marial. Click here to view a map of the area.
The Medford District of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administers the Wild Rogue region. The lands are primarily classified as Late-Successional Reserve and “Matrix” under the Northwest Forest Plan. All streams are Riparian Reserves under the plan. The congressionally withdrawn Wild & Scenic designation is in the heart of the Wild Rogue.
The Wild & Scenic designation protects a half-mile corridor of the Rogue River proper from most harmful activities but leaves the uplands open to destructive logging, road construction and other impacts.
The roadless areas and associated Wild Rogue tributary streams do not have any substantive protections, and BLM has never conducted a proper inventory of its forested roadless areas. The Kelsey, Whisky, Bunker, and Meadow Creek drainages were recently threatened by the Kelsey Whisky timber sales, which would have built roads and logged hundreds of acres of old-growth forest in the Zane Grey roadless area.
Even more recently, these lands were threatened when the Bush II administration revised the BLM's management plans and removed protections for millions of acres of public forest in western Oregon. In 2008, the Obama administration withdrew those revisions citing they were legally indefensible. Yet, the management of BLM forests in western Oregon remains in question and likely will for many years to come, which is all the more reason to protect these Lower Rogue forests and feeder streams now.