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Bill Introduced to Protect "Therapeutic" Oregon River

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A bill has been introduced in Congress to protect part of the North Umpqua River, which is renowned for its fly-fishing opportunities. (BLM/Flickr)
A bill has been introduced in Congress to protect part of the North Umpqua River, which is renowned for its fly-fishing opportunities. (BLM/Flickr)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
March 3, 2017

ROSEBURG, Ore. - Members of Oregon's congressional delegation introduced a bill on Thursday to protect some crucial habitat for wild steelhead on the North Umpqua River.

The bill is known as the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Act, named in honor of two stewards of the river. Frank Moore is a World War II veteran who found solace in the river after his service in Europe, and his wife Jeanne is a botanist and conservationist.

Dean Finnerty, a fly-fishing guide on the North Umpqua, described fishing on the river as "therapeutic."

"As you're making these casts - graceful casts, back and forth with your fly rod, and presenting this fly as it swings across this glassy, smooth current," he said, "and all of a sudden the surface just erupts with an eight- or a 10-pound bullet attacking your fly."

Finnerty said the Moores are much loved by the Umpqua River community. The legislation, introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Rep. Peter DeFazio, all D-Ore., would permanently protect about 100,000 acres around Steamboat Creek in Douglas County.

The bill would give special protections to land that already is public in order to guard its rare habitat for summer steelhead. Jeff Dose, a retired fisheries biologist who worked on the North Umpqua, said it's important to protect and preserve clean water for these fish. He said one area of the river attracts hundreds of steelhead for an awe-inspiring spectacle during the summer.

"It's an incredible sight, and, I mean, I get chills every time I go there," he said. "I've seen it hundreds of times, and I still get chills when I go up there and see those fish."

Rusty Lininger, an Iraq War veteran and founder of Source One Serenity, which coordinates fly-fishing retreats for veterans on the Umpqua River, said Umpqua fly fishing is a healing experience that also has inspired veterans to do more than fish.

"I've actually had a bigger interest in conservation as opposed to just fly fishing," he said.

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Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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