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Oregon's Owyhees: Deserving of Permanent Protection


The Sierra Club recently hosted over two dozen excited activists at the annual Owyhee Rendezvous, a camping and service trip in the heart of Oregon’s remote Owyhee Canyonlands.  The region’s bighorn sheep and time spent recovering hiking trails from off-road vehicle abuse were terrific reminders of the region’s value and needs. 

Adjacent to wilderness in Idaho, the Oregon portion of the Owyhees is no less stunning, geologically magnificent, and culturally rich than its eastern neighbor--certainly a landscape deserving permanent protection. The Owyhees are home to bighorn sheep, sage grouse and a wide array of raptors and song birds. The area is one of the best strongholds for dwindling populations of sage grouse. The severe, challenging landscape that makes up the Owyhee Canyonlands contains uplands that provide amazing vistas of the deep, rugged river canyons and opportunities for solitude and quiet contemplation seldom found in hectic lives. The canyons themselves provide many climbs that challenge even the most experienced hiker. 

A volcanic-generated geologic wonderland of immense scenic beauty, the Owyhee’s river-carved canyons are home to seasonal rushing rivers and meandering steams. Their value to the region is immense, as is the economic value through irrigation, rafting, fishing and use by domestic livestock and wildlife.

Presidential designation of southeast Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands as a national monument under the Antiquities Act would elevate the status of this remote geological wonderland and put in place the level of permanent protection it deserves, while helping to secure the future of the local economy.

We envision a national monument that will permanently protect the Owyhee Canyonlands from the landscape scale destruction, miles of roads, and air and water pollution that accompany mining activities; give the Bureau of Lands Management tools to better combat off-road vehicle abuse and control noxious weeds; and bring much needed resources to the area while assuring that this remote, desert region maintains its ecological integrity. 

A national monument proclamation for the Owyhee Canyonlands would allow the traditional uses of the land--including camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, birding and rafting--to continue. It may also help restore economic prosperity to an economically-challenged area, as has occurred in communities adjacent to Cascade Siskiyou, Vermilion Cliffs and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments

Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands is roadless backcountry, rich in culture, history, geologic diversity and ecological splendor; it should be named a national monument through presidential proclamation. 

-- By Jill Workman, Resilient Habitats Leadership Team


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