25 Apr 2011, 9:54pm
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Battle over wilderness land in Malheur County continues

By Larry Meyer, Argus Observer, April 21, 2011 [here]

VALE — Wilderness areas continue to be a contentious issue in many areas of the West particularly in regions that have large amounts of federal land designated as Wilderness Study Areas, as is the case in Malheur County.

Ranchers and others are trying to remove the Wilderness Study Area designation from land so it can be opened up to a number of different uses. The Oregon Natural Desert Association, on the other hand, is pushing to have those WSAs designated as wilderness. That will take an act of Congress, but ONDA is requesting the Southeast Oregon Resource Advisory Council to organize a collaborative effort for wilderness designations, and that will be council’s agenda when it meets next week in Lakeview.

The SEORAC is a 15-member representative citizen council that gives input and advice to the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service on planning and management of public land within the BLM’s Lakeview, Vale and Burns districts.

To pre-empt any action by the Advisory Council, Malheur County Court signed a letter in opposition to any wilderness areas, and local ranchers were encouraging other organizations and people to sign similar letters to be presented at the council’s meeting April 28 and 29. …

The County Court’s letter said, “Wilderness designations in the county will cause irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources to an unmanaged landscape, which is contrary to our customs and culture.”

The court said identifying wilderness characteristics is based on arbitrary decisions made without regard for the limitations wilderness designations place on local economies.

“Wilderness designation obscure the benefits of our past investments in land management activities that continue to protect and maintain healthy, productive landscapes,” the court said in its letter. “We disagree with the proposal by ONDA to block up large areas as wilderness landscapes.” … [more]



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