HCPC: Our History
HCPC was formed in 1967 at the time construction of Hells Canyon Dam began and plans were being finalized for damming the last 100-mile wild reach of the Snake River in Hells Canyon. The fledgling HCPC began a seemingly hopeless effort to stop the damming of the deepest canyon in North America. But in 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling (PDF) on a lawsuit filed to determine whether public or private power interests had the “right” to build the final dams. To the amazement of all, the Court ordered the Federal Power Commission to rehear the entire case with adequate consideration to be given to the question of whether there should be any more dams at all in Hells Canyon.
That was the spark that kindled hope to save Hells Canyon. HCPC inspired the introduction of federal legislation that would protect the river and canyon. But much of the magnificent expanse of wildlands surrounding the river and canyon were threatened by U.S. Forest Service timber sales that had begun to proliferate. The need to protect more than just the river itself was recognized. After years of Congressional hearings, the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (NRA) Act was signed into law on December 31, 1975.
This new law created the 652,000 acre Hells Canyon NRA wherein dam construction was prohibited and visionary mandates were set forth for the protection and enhancement of fish and wildlife habitat, unique ecosystems and wilderness values. HCPC and its allies had succeeded in winning what many people even in its own camp had called a lost cause and disbanded in 1976 on a note of triumph, feeling its had accomplished its purpose.
HCPC was reactivated in 1982 when it became obvious that the Forest Service was not carrying out the HCNRA Act mandate but was emphasizing logging, road construction, livestock grazing and jet boat use in defiance of the special protection mandate. Today, HCPC carries on the mission of protecting the Hells Canyon Ecosystem, continually challenging mismanagement, conceiving and promoting protective policy, uncovering new information articulating its international significance. We have since expanded to monitor federal public lands in the Wallowas and Blue Mountains as well. We now monitor approximately 5 million acres of federal public land primarily in northeast Oregon and also in western Idaho and southeast Washington, and we work for social change within the local communities.
Additional PDF Resources
- Udall v. Federal Power Commission, 387 U.S. 428 (1967)
- Brock Evans, How We Saved Hells Canyon, Part I
- Brock Evans, How We Saved Hells Canyon, Part II
- Brock Evans, How We Saved Hells Canyon, Part III
- Brock Evans, How We Saved Hells Canyon, Part IV
- Russ Mager, HCPC’s first President, on HCPC’s history
- Boyd Norton on HCPC’s history