The stunning Crater Lake region is home to the headwaters of five of Oregon’s most iconic watersheds: The Rogue, Umpqua, Willamette, Little Deschutes and Klamath Rivers. These rivers provide clean drinking water, critical habitat for native fish, and world-class fishing and rafting opportunities that bring jobs and economic activity to gateway communities.
Clean Drinking Water
Our rivers serve as the life source for all living things. In Oregon, 4/5 of our population get their drinking water from publicly owned forested watersheds. Rivers in the Crater Lake Wilderness proposal provide clean drinking water to hundreds of thousands of Oregonians, including some of the best drinking water in the world.
A Fishing Economy
The cold, clean waters of rivers like the Rogue and Umpqua are ideal for our state’s important and iconic fisheries, full of Chinook salmon, cutthroat trout, steelhead and more. These famous runs are not only good for the ecosystems that depends on them, but also to local gateway communities that benefit from the tourism these waters bring. The Rogue River alone produces more than $1.5 billion in economic benefits each year from its salmon and steelhead runs. While over fishing was historically a main source of salmon decline, the greatest loss in recent years for these populations is due to a loss of freshwater habitat.
The west has seen unprecedented drought in recent years, with many rivers and lakes receding from historical levels. Exacerbating problems is an increase in demand for clean water as our population grows. In 2015, Oregon declared drought emergencies for 19 counties, more than half of the state’s 36 and the most since 2002. This is not only detrimental to human health and wildlife, it’s costly. The state needed an additional $56 million for a package to fund a statewide water resources program in response. In order to ensure Oregon remains a vibrant state of wild rivers, wild fish, and healthy communities, we will need to do a better job protecting our watersheds.
When riparian areas (vegetated areas along streams that provide shade and other habitat) are lost through logging and other human activities, rivers and lakes become more susceptible to heat. There is a loss of condensation, increased evaporation, and water purity decreases as there is no longer naturally occurring filtration through the trees and soil. The Crater Lake Wilderness proposal will increase protections for these major watersheds to better ensure they stay healthy, vibrant, and continue to serve as the life source for surrounding wildlands and people.