Monday, January 02, 2017

Owyhee Canyonlands’ fate remains unclear

Speculation has simmered for months — spiking with each newly created or expanded national monument — over whether President Barack Obama would grant the same status to Owyhee Canyonlands. “We still don’t know what to expect,” said Elias Eiguren, a fifth-generation Jordan Valley rancher and the treasurer of the Owyhee Basin Stewardship Coalition, who echoed the view of many watching the outcome for the Southeast Oregon site. Conservation and recreation groups have long sought to permanently protect about 2.5 million acres there, warning of threats from drilling and mining and impacts from off-road vehicles to the remote site known for its diverse vegetation, geology, wildlife habitat and connections to other open lands that help animals migrate more easily. A coalition of conservation proponents includes Oregon Natural Desert Association, the Pew Charitable Trusts, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society. Ranchers, cattlemen, real estate groups and others have protested the use of a monument designation and have called for a vote from Congress instead, saying that a monument could harm the local economy, limit access to the land and remove grazing and ranching capabilities of people whose families have lived and worked in the area for generations. That side has its own coalition, including Eiguren and the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, Oregon Association of Realtors and Association of Oregon Counties. “Obviously, there’s not a lot of time left for additional designations,” said Thomas O’Keefe, northwest stewardship director for American Whitewater, a whitewater resources conservation nonprofit and member of the coalition urging Owyhee’s protection...more

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