LETTER: New Interior secretary offers hope for protection of lands like Owyhee Canyonlands

Letters to the editor may be sent to [email protected].

To the editor:

Following an unprecedented (tumultuous?) four years for public lands, the confirmation of Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior is a breath of fresh air. There is a lot to do.

Across the West, the previous administration withdrew important conservation measures for some of our most intact, wild public lands. In Oregon, the BLM released the Draft Southeastern Oregon Resource Management Plan Amendment – a plan that covers 4.6 million acres of public land, including the Owyhee Canyonlands – providing zero protections for more than 1.2 million acres of BLM-identified Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWCs).

As a former member of the Southeast Oregon Resource Advisory Council, I worked for years with appointed representatives from local community, commercial and conservation interests to develop a means of considering future management of LWCs. 

In the end, we recommended that a third of the BLM-identified LWCs be managed for their wilderness character – a well-reasoned recommendation that considered input from a diverse set of stakeholders.

Unfortunately, that recommendation and years of collaboration that went into it were brushed away by some officials in Washington, D.C.

The Biden Administration has a key opportunity to reevaluate and fix this plan to protect LWCs and to consider management that appropriately addresses the climate and biodiversity crises.

– Julie Weikel, Princeton, Oregon


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