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BLM Resource Plan Raises Concern for Owyhee Preservation

More than 1 million acres of land recognized as wilderness quality in the Owyhee Canyonlands could be left unprotected in the U.S. Bureau Land Management's resource plans. (BLM/Flickr)
More than 1 million acres of land recognized as wilderness quality in the Owyhee Canyonlands could be left unprotected in the U.S. Bureau Land Management's resource plans. (BLM/Flickr)
June 3, 2019

ONTARIO, Ore. — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has released a draft plan for managing southeastern Oregon, and high-desert enthusiasts are concerned about its lack of action.

The draft for managing 4.6 million acres of the Owyhee Canyonlands includes five alternatives. The B-L-M favors a plan in which the agency won't preserve more than 1 million acres of land recognized as wilderness quality.

Karl Findling, conservation director for lands with the Oregon Hunters Association, said the land needs attention, but the preferred course of action could revert management back to a plan developed during the Bush administration and lock it into place for decades to come.

"This kind of plan almost defies logic - how we could think we could manage something even another 20 years into the future with no change from a 2002 plan,” Findling said. “So, yeah, I think there's a lot of concerns."

Findling grew up hunting in southeastern Oregon and said the range is in serious degradation and needs management. He noted recreation is a big part of the economy in southeastern Oregon and, if the land isn't properly managed, people may not want to visit.

The Trump administration has been lowering what it sees as onerous barriers for resource extraction on public lands across the West.

John Caywood is a sportsman who has hunted and fished in the Owyhee Canyonlands for more than three decades and volunteered for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Caywood lives outside of Boise but said he brings family and friends to Oregon's Owyhee when they visit.

While he believes energy extraction has its place, he said it doesn't have to be the exclusive use for these lands.

"We don't need to have them trump the other issues out there,” Caywood said. “Case in point: Southeast Oregon is a wonderful outdoor playground. It's got world-class red rocks, should have some additional protections made of it rather than being postponed."

The plan's release also opens up a 90-day comment period, giving the public until August 28 to submit their views to BLM.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR