Designing a Healthy Working Landscape while Preserving the Lands, Communities and Culture in Malheur County
The Process: The OBSC formed in response to the Owyhee Canyonlands National Monument proposal and represented its membership in voicing disapproval of the unilateral designation of 2.5 million acres.
Ultimately, there was no designation, leaving the OBSC with two choices:
- Be content that there was no designation and go home satisfied, or
- Anticipate that the new focus on the lands would not be fleeting and develop our own plan that protects the lands and the people who depend on it.
The OBSC chose the latter and has since been carefully researching, discussing, debating, and investigating various management tools to help protect the land.
Before developing a plan, the OBSC held meetings throughout the County to get an understanding of what the residents, ranchers, business owners, and recreationalists want to see to ensure certainty in the County.
In addition, the OBSC has met with local communities, civic leaders, state legislators, members of Oregon's congressional delegation, in additional to non-governmental organizations. These meetings have helped shape our proposed plan with the desire to create a healthy working landscape in Malheur County.
The Proposed Plan:
- Focus on restoring landscape health
- Eliminate or set aside any overlaying designations that hinder restoration and rehabilitation
- Protect identified cultural industries in Malheur County
- Create a Rangeland Institute of Excellence
- Create a Governmental Accountability Board to ensure compliance to the congressional mandates
The lands of southeast Oregon exist in a climate that is trending hotter and drier, compounded with millions of acres of administrative designations that reduce the BLM’s ability to actively manage the
lands. All of this is leading to lower quality of water, soil, and vegetation and the uncontrolled spread of invasive plants, grasses, and trees. These trends are creating vulnerable, unhealthy lands and soils where larger and hotter fires occur more frequently.
Proposed solutions: The OBSC Board of Directors is developing a legislative proposal for Congress to accomplish the following:
- Remove, or temporarily set aside, all administrative land management overlays that prevent restoration work from being accomplished in the most economical and efficient manner or “best practice” known at the time
- Stop the spread of invasive plants, grasses, and trees
- Remove and control existing invasive plants, trees, and grasses
- Plant appropriate grasses and plants to restore each ecosystem
- Reduce the severity and size of rangeland wildfires
- Strengthen the sagebrush ecosystem to protect Sage Grouse and other habitat
- Assure that cultural industries are preserved and held in operation during land rehabilitation
- Create a local Rangeland Institute of Excellence, in partnership with an Oregon university, to prepare future land management professionals and experts
- Create and fund the Rangeland Institute of Excellence
- Craft and identify the Governmental Accountability Board to implement the legislation
OBSC Findings: Malheur County residents agree there is misinformation driven by outside groups that the best protection for the public lands is to simply lock it up and allow it to improve on its own. The OBSC is adamantly opposed to a unilateral designation of any public lands in Malheur County and cannot understand why there would be a continuous threat when current local, state, and federal laws already provide assurances that no unwanted developments of any kind can take place within the open and vast areas.
Next Steps: After identifying both challenges and opportunities that would best serve Malheur County, the OBSC Board is confident that it has outlined a plan to provide optimal, long-term health of the lands
and offer certainty to the communities in Malheur County. The OBSC Board will be presenting an official plan in the near future and is always open to additional ideas and suggestions.