Monday, June 06, 2016

Owyhee Canyonlands monument unnecessary and ignores local voices

by Linda Bentz

My family has lived and worked in Southeast Oregon since the 1800s. We are people of the land and for the land. Our businesses have worked hand-in-hand with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Department of State Lands to care for this land since the agencies were created.

With our intimate knowledge of the lands, we assist in reporting, locating and fighting rangeland fires and helping with search and rescues missions. Our goal for our own land and the public’s land is to maintain a healthy viable sagebrush ecosystem in the high desert of southeast Oregon.
Now, all of this may come to an end.

 An outdoor clothing corporation and special interest groups have proclaimed 2.5 million acres in Southeast Oregon as “unprotected” in their campaign to pressure President Obama to turn the land into a monument.

To call this public land “unprotected” is like saying the land in downtown Portland has no zoning code.

The Owyhee Canyonlands along the Oregon-Idaho-Nevada border and the water and wildlife that run through it enjoy protections from more than seven layers of local, state and federal government and is actively managed by professional resource managers employed by the three state or federal agencies.

The protections include at least five federal acts (Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, Endangered Species Act of 1973, Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 and Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979) and three land-use plans (Federal Land Policy and Management Act, Southeastern Oregon Resource Management Plan of 2002 and Oregon Greater Sage-Grouse Approved Resource Management Plan of 2015).

When likely Oregon voters were told in a recent poll about the existing protections and plans in place for these lands, 61 percent said the Owyhee Canyonlands has enough protection.

This monument declaration doesn’t offer further protection. It’s more an act of exclusion.

Once a monument is declared, public lands become less accessible not more. It would restrict road maintenance and that would inhibit search and rescue and firefighting operations. It would also restrict ranchers’ ability to care for the land under their grazing permits, limiting our ability to maintain water sources and reservoirs that benefit all wildlife.

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