Blumanauer and Walden Expanded Mount Hood Wilderness Plan

U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Portland, and Greg Walden, a Republican from Hood River, back from hiking 41 miles around Mount Hood have come up with a plan to protect the mountain.

Their blueprint calls for less than half the 177,000 acres of wilderness that Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, proposed in a bill last year. But Wyden’s measure went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Walden’s position as a leading Republican who heads a subcommittee on forests gives his and Blumenauer’s scaled-down proposal instant political momentum. If it succeeds, as Walden predicted is likely, it would create Oregon’s first new wilderness in five years and the first on Mount Hood since 1984.

It would also need support in the Senate. Sen. Gordon Smith, Oregon’s Republican senator, was cool toward Wyden’s wilderness bill last year. But Wyden and Smith have been meeting over the past six weeks in hopes of advancing a bipartisan Mount Hood proposal of their own, said Josh Kardon, Wyden’s chief of staff.

That might serve as the footing for the Senate and House of Representatives to reach agreement on Mount Hood wilderness, he said.

While Blumenauer and Walden reflect political opposites in Oregon’s congressional delegation, Blumenauer suggested their unusual partnership to deal with the rising demands Mount Hood faces from a growing regional population. It solidified during their backpack trip around the mountain and many public meetings they held.