By the CUJ
Policies that reflect “diversity, equity and inclusion” are being added to the new management plan for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
Then Columbia River Gorge Commission approved a revised management plan in October. It is the second time the plan has been updated in 29 years for the 202,000-acre national scenic area, which is shared by Oregon and Washington.
The diversity, equity and inclusion language for the revised Gorge 2020 Management Plan was introduced by Carina Miller, an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs who was appointed to the Columbia River Gorge Commission by Gov. Kate Brown. (Miller was a senate candidate for Oregon District 30.)
The “diversity, equity and inclusion” plan has yet to be developed, but will address “systemic inequities identified or discovered in its work and policies.”
The plan will include specific measures and outcomes to:
Ensure a diverse staff and commission;
Develop and apply an “equity lens” to implementation of the management plan, Gorge Commission operations, and policy decisions, and;
Engage under-represented and marginalized communities in the Columbia Gorge region.
In the Chapter 1 overview, the Columbia Gorge Commission stated this:
“The Gorge Commission recognizes that the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area represents rich and diverse cultures. The National Scenic Area is located within the ancestral territories of indigenous peoples who have protected these lands since time immemorial. The Gorge Commission acknowledges that European settlers and their governing authorities took indigenous land and resources within this region by unjust and inequitable means. Indigenous leaders negotiated treaties that reserved rights to fish at usual and accustomed sites, hunt, and gather traditional foods and medicines on public lands and waters throughout their ceded lands. Despite these treaties, indigenous people have experienced loss of land and resources essential to their spiritual, cultural, and economic well-being and livelihoods.”
The revised management plan includes a wide range of new policies like doubling the size of protective steam buffers for salmon habitat, requiring an analysis if any of the 13 urban areas within the designated scenic area wants to expand, and placing limits on the amount of land that can be used for urban development. It also adds greater restrictions on new construction in forest zones to reduce fire risks.
For the first time, in addition to the diversity component, the management plan requires a climate action strategy to continue to protect the region and adapt to changing climate.
The U.S. Forest Service created the Columbia River Gorge Commission in 1986 under the National Scenic Area Act. Two years later, the commission developed a Scenic Area Management plan, which was then adopted in 1991. The plan is supposed to be reviewed at least every ten years to determine what needs to be updated to better protect the area.
Some of the information in this story is from an Oct. 19, 2020, story by Monica Samayoa of Oregon Public Broadcasting.