Local officials were ecstatic as Malheur County voters overwhelmingly rejected the idea of an Owyhee Canyonlands national monument last week.
Results released by the Malheur County Clerk’s Office showed 90 percent, or 5,666 voters, saying no while 10 percent, or 633 voted yes in the March 8 election.
County Judge Dan Joyce lauded the decisive results, saying, “You probably are not going to get it any better than that.”
Commissioner Larry Wilson, who was involved in a task force examining the Canyonlands proposal, agreed.
“If you had a presidential election that went 75-25 percent, it would be the thrashing of the century,” he said. “And this was 90 percent.”
The no votes carried the day in all 24 precincts. Four precincts – rural Jordan Valley, Arock, McDermitt and Annex/Huntington – voted 100 percent against the monument.
The city of Ontario had the highest yes vote, at 17 percent for its four precincts.
The measure, which was advisory only, drew a 54.25 percent turnout. County Clerk Deborah DeLong noted the turnout was large for a one-issue special election.
Mark MacKenzie, a landowner in the midst of the proposed monument area, said the turnout makes it clear how the local people feel about government restrictions.
“It was very rewarding to see the vote come in like that,” he said.
The monument effort is driven by “unelected officials, and by money and greed,” he said, adding, “It’s not about saving the land.”
MacKenzie is the vice president of the Owyhee Basin Stewardship Coalition, which is launching a website campaign this week to spread the word about the opposition to the monument.
He said the group will take the vote results and more information to federal and state officials in hopes of stopping a monument designation.