Designing a Healthy Working Landscape while Preserving the Lands, Communities and Culture in Malheur County
Malheur County Healthy Working Lands Act Legislative Concept*
Owyhee Basin Stewardship Coalition (“OBSC”) seeks legislation that will direct the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) to rehabilitate, enhance, and protect the federal public lands it manages through aggressive land management practices and policies within the boundaries of Malheur County, Oregon without the reduction, suspension, or elimination of current uses of the public lands in the affected area(s).
OBSC’s legislative proposal is simple and straightforward, mandating that the BLM utilize relevant science and flexible land management practices to foster a healthy working ecosystem in Malheur County. This legislation will include the appropriate, long-term funding to accomplish the work required for rehabilitation and all future ecosystem maintenance and management efforts.
The management portion of this legislation will be structured as follows:
1. Partner with local Natural Resource Conservation Service to complete an inventory of flora on public lands in Malheur County;
2. Malheur Accountability Commission (“MAC”) and BLM develop a comprehensive management plan to implement this legislation’s mandates without curtailing current permitted uses;
3. Temporary lifting of land designations and overlays on public lands in Malheur County that require treatment;
4. Complete categorical exclusion for all management activities required under this legislation or compliance with a streamlined NEPA process;
5. Removal or control of invasive annual grasses, plants, and trees through the most efficient, effective, and economic treatments;
6. Introduction of appropriate perennial grasses and shrubs through the most efficient, effective, and economic methods;
7. Additional water system development and maintenance using the most efficient, effective, and economic means possible to encourage dispersed utilization by wildlife, wild horses, and livestock;
8. Long-term maintenance and monitoring of public lands in Malheur County in coordination with the Rangeland Institute of Excellence.
The lands in Malheur County operate as part of a cohesive and unified ecosystem. A healthy ecosystem composed of perennial grasses, shrubs, and trees, provides compounding and sustainable benefits for the ecosystem and Cultural Industries. A range ecosystem dominated by perennial flora reduces the negative impact of catastrophic wildfire by preserving critical habitat for wildlife, protecting soil and water quality from detrimental erosion, shielding Cultural Industries in the County from disruption, and mitigating the direct release of carbon into the atmosphere.
Malheur Accountability Commission
A critical aspect in ensuring that the objectives described in this document, and ultimately the legislation contemplated herein, are implemented properly is developing an accountability function. The Malheur Accountability Commission (“MAC”) will be composed of a diverse group of individuals who represent the Cultural Industries in Malheur County. MAC will work closely with the BLM to implement the mandates in this legislation in the most efficient, effective, and economic manner.
The MAC will be composed of six voting members and one non-voting, ex officio member. All voting members of the MAC will be residents of Malheur County. The non-voting, ex officio member will be a Vale district BLM employee who may be the District Manager or a nominee provided by the Vale District BLM. Three voting members will be appointed to the MAC from the list of nominees provided by the Malheur County Court and three voting members will be appointed from the list of nominees provided by the Governor of Oregon. The Secretary of Interior will make all appointments to the MAC. Members will be appointed to serve one, three-year term, and may be reappointed for up to one additional term after their initial appointment.
Rangeland Institute of Excellence
The legislation will include an educational component with congressional funding to build an institution, the “Rangeland Institute of Excellence,” in Malheur County.
The Rangeland Institute of Excellence will allow students and department leaders the opportunity to engage and interact with agencies, ranchers, recreationalists, and land managers while pursuing degrees. Students who attend the Rangeland Institute of Excellence can provide an invaluable role in implementing and monitoring the land management objectives of this legislative proposal.
The Healthy Working Lands act encompasses the tools and mandates that the OBSC agrees are the right solution to the problems that Malheur County’s public lands are currently facing and will face long-term if nothing proactive is done. We feel that land designation does not equal land protection in this region due to threats and challenges faced from invasive plant species and wildfires. A healthy ecosystem is the backbone for success of the Cultural Industries in Malheur County. The system we aspire to create develops a comprehensive strategy for meeting challenges to ecosystem health without jeopardizing the economy of Malheur County. The MAC and the BLM working together to develop flexible, innovative ways to implement the mandates will enhance and protect the public lands and the sustainability of Cultural Industries in Malheur County. The OBSC strongly believes that the successes of this management concept will provide a sizeable, exportable model for the benefit of any rangeland biome.
* Please note this is a working document. Consequently it may be modified as additional conversations occur. This draft is current as of September 21, 2018.