What have you done for your local parks, rivers and wildlife recently? Not much opportunity to help? Here's a perfect chance for you to do something truly meaningful for these things we all cherish. In November, you can vote "yes" on Measure 76.
Measure 76 is a ballot measure that seeks to sustain existing funding for water, parks, rivers, and wildlife. In the arid high desert of Central Oregon, water is arguably our most precious resource - pure drinking water, water to grow crops, water for fish and wildlife, water for recreation. Among other benefits, Measure 76 will ensure continued funding for the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), a state entity that has contributed millions of dollars each year to restore the health of Oregon's watersheds and the water quality upon which we are so dependent.
Over the past decade, OWEB investments have brought new life to rivers and streams in Central Oregon while helping farmers at the same time. It was only ten years ago that Whychus Creek was virtually dry before it reached the city of Sisters in the hot summer months. This summer, for the first time in over 100 years, the creek flowed at the target level established by Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. And this flow restoration success by the Deschutes River Conservancy and its partners has enabled the Deschutes Land Trust and the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council to realize their own restoration dreams for Whychus Creek. For them, OWEB investment has been critical to the protection and restoration of Camp Polk Meadow Preserve where Whychus Creek restoration is producing 1.7 miles of important spawning habitat for steelhead trout.
Overall, the multiple OWEB investments in Whychus Creek have remarkably improved its water quality and overall health. Surprisingly, these investments have also helped the areas farmers and the City of Sisters. The water supply to working farms in the Lower Bridge area has been vastly improved and these farmers now receive pressurized water from a pipe that provides enormous energy savings. Furthermore, in the context of an urban stream restoration effort, the city of Sisters received assistance to improve the urban creek corridor and protect homes from streambank erosion.
Whychus Creek is just one example that demonstrates the importance of voting "yes" on Measure 76. The Metolius River is well known as one of the finest natural areas in Oregon and is another good reason to vote "yes." Passage of Measure 76 would ensure continued funding to places like the Metolius River. Significant investments by OWEB helped the Deschutes Land Trust protect 1,240 acres of wildlife habitat in its Metolius Preserve, including habitat for Oregon's first sockeye salmon run in 50 years. OWEB's investments through the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council are improving fish passage and habitat in the Metolius for reintroduced Chinook salmon. At all of these restoration sites, volunteers from Trout Unlimited and other organizations have helped complete the restoration projects, monitor results and share these important success stories.
Protection of these precious natural areas not only improves conditions for fish and wildlife, but supports the rich quality of life we have in Central Oregon. Outdoor recreation is a way of life for many Oregonians and continued investments in parks, forest land and rivers will ensure that we continue to have places to hunt, fish, hike, bike, see wildlife or simply enjoy the beauty of nature. In Central Oregon, let us not forget that these enhanced recreational opportunities are critical to the sustenance of our local economy. In a July 2010 report commissioned by Economic Development for Central Oregon, quality of life, outdoor recreation, fishing and hunting, rivers, public lands, parks, and trails were all cited as major reasons for people and businesses moving to Central Oregon. And investments made by these people are quite significant; more than $110 million was spent in Central Oregon in 2008 on wildlife-related tourism alone.
Passage of Measure 76 is one of the easiest ways for us to ensure that funding exists for the things that are most meaningful to us. And one of the great things about Measure 76 is that it does NOT raise taxes or cause you to spend money in a different way. If Measure 76 passes, it will simply continue the practice already in place - dedicating 15 percent of state lottery proceeds to support clean water, healthy rivers, parks, outdoor recreation and economic vitality.
Rarely in our lives do we get an opportunity to do something truly significant that will positively affect us for years to come. Measure 76 is one of these rare opportunities. Vote "Yes" for water, parks, rivers, and wildlife. Please join us to protect and restore our natural areas for future generations. Our children and their children will thank us.
For more information go to: www.waterparkswildlife.org.
The authors are members of the conservation coalition that is coordinating the Measure 76 campaign locally. They represent local river restoration, fish advocacy and land conservation groups, including Trout Unlimited, the Deschutes Land Trust, and Deschutes River Conservancy and the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council.