“Conservation and rural-life policies are really two sides of the same policy…” A look into the Owyhee Canyonlands
KEEN is a brand rooted in the outdoors, and we feel a responsibility to preserve and protect access to the natural areas where we work and play. In the summer of 2015, we launched Live Monumental, a movement to protect the places we play. The Owyhee Canyonlands in Southeast Oregon is one such place, so worthy of permanent protection.
You may be asking: The Owyhee is already public land, why does it need to be protected and what are you hoping to protect it from? Great question!
The Owyhee Canyonlands is already considered public land, owned by all Americans and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It contains many Wilderness Study Areas – places acknowledged for their Wilderness-like values, but not yet designated as Wilderness. Permanent protection would be happen with use of the Wilderness Act and a bill passed through congress.
Ranching is an important piece of the Owyhee landscape, and a critical part of Southeast Oregon’s economy. Nearly 20% of Malheur County – where the Owyhee Canyonlands is – raises cattle for a living and most of these cows graze on the 400+ open grazing permits in the Owyhee’s publicly managed lands. Not only does ranching help sustain local communities, grazing cattle help mitigate the fuels (mostly cheatgrass, which burns swiftly, and destroys the sage brush which is essential for the greater sage grouse’s survival) that can lead to explosive wildfire in times of drought. Ranching is an incredibly important sector, one that has sustained local families for the last 150 years in Oregon. This is a good thing, and we support these ranchers!
We don’t plan to ignore the past, discount, or change the present; rather we wish to expose an additional opportunity for the future: a sustainable outdoor recreation based economy. The Outdoor Industry Association’s economic impact report reminds us in Oregon alone, outdoor recreation generates more than $12 billion in consumer spending annually – more than twice as much as agriculture, produces 141,000 jobs, and generates nearly one billion dollars in state and local tax revenue. More great places to hike equals more folks out hiking, and that’s good for us. Outdoor enthusiasts, hunters, fisherman, hikers, bird watchers, climbers and more have been enjoying the Owyhee’s public land for generations. This is also a good thing! We want to see this land protected for recreationists and ranchers alike.
Ranching and outdoor recreation both share a common goal: ensure the Owyhee Canyonlands stay the way they are today, forever. As Theodore Roosevelt said,
“Conservation and rural-life policies are really two sides of the same policy; and down at the bottom this policy rests upon the fundamental law that neither man nor nation can prosper unless, in dealing with the present, thought is steadily given for the future.”
The real threat? The Owyhee’s remoteness has protected it for a long time – protected both ranching, and outdoor recreation. What would threaten both of these things is extraction-based oil and gas development. Oil and gas development would permanently scar this beautiful area and more importantly threaten the groundwater (think Flint, Michigan) and the Wild and Scenic Owyhee River – from which thousands of people downstream drink and irrigate with. The solitude and beauty of the Owyhee is unmatched; it truly is an American treasure.
It is time to work together to protect the Owyhee now.