An effort to expand the size of the Oregon Caves National Monument nearly ten-fold cleared another hurdle late Wednesday when the U.S. Senate passed a bill that supporters say will enhance protections to the monument.
The Senate unanimously passed the Oregon Caves Revitalization Act, sending it to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The bill would transfer management of more than 4,000 acres of Forest Service land around the monument to the National Park Service, which manages Oregon Caves. The addition would include the entire Cave Creek watershed.
The move would add protection to the lands because logging and other operations allowed on Forest Service lands are banned on park service holdings, but it would preserve recreational access to hunters and others.
The current monument covers 488 acres, including the marble cave, on southwestern Josephine County about 20 miles east of Cave Junction near the California border.
The bill also calls for scenic river designation under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to the River Styx that travels through the caves. If adopted, it would be the nation's first such distinction for an underground waterway.
The bill was introduced jointly by Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, who together tout the legislation as a way to preserve the monument, improve forest health and boost the local economy.
Wyden and Merkley first introduced the bill in 2009.
— Mark Freeman