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Oregon Senators’ Bill Aiming To Protect Owyhee Canyonlands Lauded

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE NORTHWEST SPORTFISHING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION

The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association (NSIA) today praised the introduction of Malheur County Community Empowerment for the Owyhee Act by Sen. Ron Wyden to permanently protect more than a million acres of public land in Malheur County, including Oregon’s spectacular Owyhee Canyonlands, as wilderness and some 14.7 miles of rivers as wild and scenic.  The conservation measure, which is cosponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley, would also safeguard the most scenic and ecologically sensitive public land in the region from new mining claims as well as oil and gas development.

AN ANGLER WADES THE OWYHEE RIVER IN SOUTHEAST OREGON. (TIM NEVILLE)

Renowned for wildlife-filled uplands and desert rivers that wind toward the Pacific, the Owyhee Canyonlands in the southeastern corner of Oregon is the largest unprotected, undeveloped area left in the contiguous United States. The region is well known for its blue-ribbon trout fishing and sport fishing.  It is also home to over 200 species of wildlife, including golden eagles, pronghorn antelope, elk, Greater sage-grouse and one of the largest herds of California bighorn sheep in the nation.

“People come from all over the planet to fish in our rivers and to hunt, hike, boat and explore the Owyhee Canyonlands,” said Liz Hamilton, executive director of the  Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association.  “This remote, high desert river canyon teeming with wildlife and fish is a special place that deserves permanent protection. We commend Senators Wyden and Merkley for their commitment to preserving this natural treasure.

“This bill would help keep the water of the Owyhee River and its tributaries clear and pristine for all to enjoy for future generations,” added Hamilton.  “Protecting the Owyhee Canyonlands will help ensure a growing economy.”

Outdoor recreation in Oregon generated $16.4 billion in consumer spending and accounted for 172,000 jobs in one year alone.

A MAP SHOWS AREAS PROPOSED FOR WILDERNESS PROTECTION (DARK BROWN). (BLM)

Efforts have been underway for decades to permanently protect this natural treasure.  In April, Senator Wyden initiated an inclusive process for diverse stakeholders to identify solutions for future management and protection of the Owyhee region.  Participants included sportsmen and women, ranchers, tribal representatives, agency staff, conservationists, and elected officials. NSIA was honored to participate in the effort to nurture the way of life for these small communities, while protecting the grandeur of a region that boasts world class fish and wildlife resources, important cultural resources, unique plant species, unparalleled star gazing and breathtaking scenic views among its many attributes.

“We appreciate Senator Wyden’s commitment to finding a balanced way forward,” said Hamilton.  “It was a long process and not everyone got everything they wanted.  But today we have a conservation measure before Congress that will ensure that this special place will stay as it is for our future anglers, hunters, hikers, and paddlers.  We hope it will be acted on quickly.”