How much value should decision makers give to the opinions of rural residents of southeast Oregon who oppose the creation of a 2.5 million acre national monument in their backyard? Not much, according to a leading activist and lobbyists for environmental causes.
Backed by the Oregon Natural Desert Association and the owner of Portland’s Keen Footwear, the proposed Owyhee Canyonlands wilderness and conservation area would cover 40 percent of Oregon’s Malheur County — about 2.5 million acres of what is now controlled by the Bureau of Land Management.
Earlier this month voters in Malheur County voted 9-to-1 against the proposal in a special election. The results carry no legal weight. An not much weight at all, according to Andy Kerr.
“All the voters in Malheur County easily fit into three and a half precincts in Multmomah County,” he told OPB’s “Think Out Loud” March 15 from studios in Washington, D.C. “There are more members of the Audubon Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and Oregon Wild individually than all the voters in Malheur County.”
Kerr made a passionate case that the “national park-grade” wilderness should be protected in the long-term national interest.
That’s easy to say from Washington, Portland or any other place whose economic vitality is not tied to those 2.5 million acres.
The people of Malheur County believe they’ve been good stewards of the public lands in their corner of the state since they began caring for it more than a century ago. It’s their home. Beyond it being the right thing to do, their economic self-interest depends that they do so.
Residents believe the designation would be accompanied by restrictions and regulations that would prohibit or severely complicate grazing, mining, hunting and recreation. In short, the lifeblood of their community.
But Kerr and his confederates believe the locals are there only to exploit and trample the land. It is from the people of Malheur County that the Owyhee must be protected.
“Proximity does not give license to abuse federal resources,” he said.
And they wonder why people are angry.
Reposted by Reagangirl.com 3/29/16