STEAMBOAT — A campaign to protect nearly 100,000 acres of the North Umpqua River Basin for wild steelhead and name it after one of the fish's most ardent and iconic defenders is gathering traction in Congress.
A proposed bill that would create the Frank Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area on federal land east of Roseburg is heading to the U.S. Senate floor after some amendments to the original bill.
In earlier versions of the legislation, the management area was called a sanctuary, and about 4,000 acres were removed from the bill before it was passed out of committee, but the core area of Umpqua National Forest land in and around Steamboat Creek remained.
The name was changed "to better reflect what’s going on" in the area, says Hank Stern, spokesman for U.S. Sen Ron Wyden, D-Ore., one of the bill's co-sponsors.
The slight reduction in acreage was done to remove some private land from the management area, Stern says.
The bill passed Tuesday out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is headed for the full Senate for debate.
The bill bears the name of Moore, a storied North Umpqua fly-fisher and nationally recognized conservationist whose wild steelhead advocacy in the basin dates back to the early 1950s and continues today.
The proposed management area includes Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands home to more than 80 miles of wild steelhead spawning habitat and the source of some of the best cold and clean water in the basin, advocates say.
The legislation seeks to have the lands managed to enhance flora, fauna and ecology, especially preserving the area as a cold-water refuge for wild steelhead.
The act calls for no new roads, prioritizes the decommissioning of roads and bans future mining and geothermal exploration but does not prohibit current mining there. The draft bill does not address commercial logging but requires steps be taken to improve riparian habitats for better water quality.
Tuesday's vote, and last week's mark-up of the bill to prepare it for a committee vote, represented the first significant movement on the bill since Wyden and fellow Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley sponsored the bill in May 2015.
Moore, 93, who still lives with his wife, Jeanne, in the North Umpqua River-side house they built, says he's extremely vested in seeing the legislation passed so future public-lands managers will have clear marching orders for protecting the area.
Moore, who served a stint on the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, first championed protection for Steamboat Creek and its tributaries during commercial logging operations in the early 1950s.
The founder of Steamboat Inn, he is a former National Wildlife Federation Conservationist of the Year, earned the Wild Steelhead Coalition Conservation Award, and in 2010 was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.
Moore also fought in the invasion of Normandy, and a 2014 documentary followed his return to France to fish some of the streams he crossed as a soldier. He was awarded the Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor for bravery.