Rancher: Oregon Owyhee Monument an “act of exclusion” for the disabled, elderly
By Linda Bentz
as originally published by OregonLive
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 “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 are 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.
The monument would limit access for people who are not aggressive hikers, especially the elderly, handicapped and veterans. Those who enjoy hunting, fishing, rafting and viewing birds, wildlife and wildflowers in the Canyonlands area will also be greatly restricted.
Special interest groups are urging President Obama to act alone under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to cut Congress and our community out of this decision. But their agenda runs counter to the voice of Oregonians across the state, from Malheur County to Multnomah County. At the ballot in March, 90 percent of Malheur County voters opposed the idea. In the poll of likely Multnomah County voters, 69 percent agreed that Congress should get a voice in the decision.
Polls show the feeling is the same in urban and rural Oregon. This land belongs to everyone — not just members of select interest groups. We all deserve a voice in the future of our land. This is an extreme overreach of presidential power. The people of the Oregon need to stand and be heard from Malheur County to Multnomah County. It is our land and our voice.
Rancher Linda Bentz lives in Juntura and is a sixth-generation rancher in the Owyhee Canyonlands. She is a member of the Owyhee Basin Stewardship Coalition.
Reposted by Reagangirl.com 4/22/16