Rep. DeFazio Pushes Bill to Expand Oregon Caves Protections
Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on legislation from Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield) that would protect and expand the Oregon Caves National Monument. DeFazio’s legislation, The Oregon Caves Revitalization Act (HR 2489), would expand the monument by 4,070 acres and designate the River Styx –the underground stream running through Oregon Caves- as the first subterranean Wild and Scenic River in the nation.
More than 80,000 tourists visit Oregon Caves each year, supporting jobs and local businesses in Josephine County and Cave Junction and pumping money in the local economy. An expansion is expected to bring a much-needed economic boost to Josephine County and the surrounding area.
“The Oregon Caves National Monument is a special place and very deserving of expansion. From the incredible caves system, to the rustic and charming 1930s Chateau, to the miles of trails with unforgettable views of the Siskiyou Mountains, Oregon Caves is a place worth visiting and revisiting. Unfortunately, when the monument was first designated over 100 years ago by President Taft the 480 acre designation wasn’t enough to protect the unique hydrology of the caves and the water supply for future visitors. Grazing and possible fires in dry Southern Oregon have exposed the Marbled Halls of Oregon to serious risk. This bill would expand the monument to attract more visitors and support local businesses, reduce grazing in and near the monument, direct the Park Service to complete necessary hazardous fuel work, and protect the first underground river under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act,” said DeFazio.
The 4,070 acre expansion will be managed as a National Preserve, which will allow the National Park Service (NPS) to preserve hunting and fishing access for the public.. The expansion includes key watershed important to the unique hydrology of the caves and the source of drinking water for 80,000 annual visitors. The legislation also provides for the voluntary donation of grazing permits within and near the monument to be permanently retired by the NPS. The National Park Service has expressed concerns about the impact of grazing on the watershed, cave system, and drinking water supply.
Oregon Caves is the longest marble cave (3.5 miles) open to the public west of the Continental Divide. Oregon Caves National Monument was established in 1909 by President Howard Taft. At the time, the Secretary of the Interior proposed a monument of 2,500 acres but President Taft settled on 480 acres. Expansion has been proposed by the NPS on multiple occasions, first in 1939, again in 1949, and most recently in 1999.
A companion bill was passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2013 and awaits action in the full Senate. Nearly forty stakeholder groups, many of which are small, local businesses in Cave Junction and Josephine County, have publicly supported the legislation. Their letters of support can be found here and attached to this email.