As an East Oregonian who values public lands, clean water and wildlife habitat, I was appalled by The Observer editorial, “New river protections may have unintended consequences” (Feb. 25, 2021). The piece claims: “We are not in opposition to the bill.” Yet the entire editorial raises vague suspicions about government in general and the broad groups of people who support the bill.
The editorial notes that politicians are always trying to get reelected. That is certainly true. Most of us want to keep our jobs. Some politicians get reelected by goading and manipulating voters’ fears while serving special interests. Special interest groups fund electioneering in exchange for future decisions that provide profit for their executives. In Oregon, the timber industry has bought politicians on both sides of the aisle for short-term profit.
Truly democratic lawmakers appeal instead to everyday constituents. They make decisions toward long-term goals for healthy ecosystems and sustainable economies. Most outdoor people support the River Democracy Act. People working to combat climate change and restore healthy ecosystems are the opposite of a special interest group.
The editorial warns that if passed, this bill may negatively impact “the people on the ground” or “someone somewhere.” Really? Could you be a bit more specific?
I know many of my neighbors reflexively oppose anything that might make “environmentalists” happy, but this bill doesn’t affect private property rights. It doesn’t restrict existing grazing or water use privileges or mining. It doesn’t stop future logging. Quite frankly, I wish it did. And as “historic” as this bill may be, it still leaves 94% of the waterways in our state undesignated and under-protected.
Oregon U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and most Oregonians recognize the enduring benefits the River Democracy Act will extend to Oregon’s forests, rivers, wildlife and communities. We encourage them to stand for the public interest and against reflexive fears by turning this bill into law as soon as possible.