Disturbing Trend Hits Oregon’s Desert Public Lands
The Bureau of Land Management just released its Draft Resource Management Plan for Southeastern Oregon, and it fails to protect the wild character of important public lands. It’s time for people to speak up.
On May 31, 2019, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a Draft Southeastern Oregon Resource Management Plan Amendment covering 4.6 million acres in the Owyhee Canyonlands. The public now has 90 days to comment on the five management alternatives presented in the plan.
Oregon Natural Desert Association is committed to protecting and restoring public lands in southeastern Oregon and we are alarmed with what BLM has selected as their preferred alternative because it disregards decades of local stakeholder input and it fails to implement common sense tools for managing public lands.
People who camp, hunt, fish and hike in the Owyhee Canyonlands will find that it leaves the wild desert places they love vulnerable to development pressure.
The BLM has identified 1.2 million acres of wilderness-quality land in this planning area, including areas such as Three Fingers, Camp Creek, West Little Owyhee and Jordan Craters, among many others. Yet, the BLM’s preferred alternative does not propose to manage any of these lands to retain their wild character.
“Under the Trump administration, public lands across the nation are being treated like special interest playgrounds. Resource extraction is prioritized. Wildlife and wild places take a back seat, if they get any seat at all,” said Oregon Natural Desert Association Executive Director Ryan Houston.
Houston added, “In Alaska, Montana and elsewhere, the BLM has released plans that essentially try to zero out conservation on some of our most intact, wild public lands. Now, we are seeing a similar scenario unfold here in Oregon. This is an unfortunate and deeply concerning trend, and it’s essential that people who care about public lands make their voices heard in this process.”
The federal agencies that manage these landscapes must consider all of the feedback they receive during public comment periods. So over the next 90 days, the public can engage in this process to help shape how these lands will be managed for decades to come. By commenting, people can let the BLM know the importance of conservation management that helps Oregon’s high desert public lands, fish and wildlife to thrive and ensures people will continue to enjoy the beauty, solitude and the abundant recreation opportunities of this area.
“This planning process has been in the works for decades. We were hoping for a preferred alternative that would better protect iconic wild places in the Owyhee Canyonlands, while at the same time taking into consideration the interests of ALL stakeholders. I and other outfitters will be weighing in and will be encouraging all who know and love this area to do the same,” said Brian Sykes of Ouzel Outfitters.
John Caywood has hunted and fished in Oregon’s Owyhee for over 30 years. He is a longtime volunteer for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and a member of several national and local sportsmen organizations and he will be weighing in during the 90-day comment period.
“Sporting men and women love this high desert landscape. It has most everything a sportsman could wish for — bighorn sheep, elk, pronghorn, thousands of chukar, and trout and bass — all with world-class scenery. Land management agencies generate creative ideas and the best on-ground management when they hear from knowledgeable users. This is a critical time for hunters and anglers to speak up for the land and resources they know so well,” said Caywood.
ONDA has published extensive background information online detailing what issues are being addressed in this plan and how to make substantive comments about the management alternatives. These resources can be found at https://onda.org/resource-management-plans/.
Oregon Natural Desert Association is a nonprofit organization that protects, defends and restores Oregon’s high desert. Since 1987, ONDA has conserved hundreds of thousands of acres of stunning, wildlife-rich natural areas in the Central Oregon Backcountry, John Day River Basin, Greater Hart-Sheldon Region, Steens Mountain Region and the Owyhee Canyonlands and helped tens of thousands of people make their voices heard on public lands management issues. Learn more at ONDA.org.