In the community

Local conservation group wins top national honor for Malheur work

A local conservation group was recently celebrated by the BLM for its conservation and volunteer efforts across the county, including places like the Owyhee River. (The Enterprise/FILE).

ONTARIO – Tim Davis is clear his organization is proud of the award it recently received from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

“It’s nice to get recognized but we are not in it for an award,” said Davis.

The BLM awarded the Group Excellence award to the Friends of the Owyhee as part of the federal agency’s 2022 Making a Difference National Volunteers Awards.

Friends of the Owyhee was one of nine organizations selected across the nation for the 2022 accolades and the only one in the Northwest.

The awards single out individuals or groups that donate their time to help the BLM in its effort to manage public lands across the West. The BLM started offering the award in 1996.

“Friends of the Owyhee is the embodiment of the BLM’s guiding principle to cultivate community-based conservation, citizen-centered stewardship and partnership,” said Wayne Monger, Vale District of the BLM manager.

In his nomination letter, Monger wrote when the Covid pandemic hit, the Friends of the Owyhee “stepped up to help urban residents unfamiliar with dispersed recreation experience.”

“Through their outreach, hundreds of families and thousands of youngsters became familiar with the great outdoors in their backyards,” wrote Monger.

Davis, who serves as the executive director of the Friends of the Owyhee, said the notification his group received the award was “a shock.”

Davis said the idea to compete for the award came from the BLM and the agency recently conducted an online ceremony to deliver the honor.

 Friends of the Owyhee focuses on working to conserve the high desert steppes of the county while creating programs to enrich understanding of the value of public lands.

“We want to be a voice for the land we all love out there,” said Davis.

Davis said the key theme for the Friends of Owyhee is to work collaboratively with federal and state agencies and ranching, conservation groups and area residents.

“We all love the landscape and want to see a good future for that landscape. We are building bridge between everybody. We want to work with everybody,” said Davis.

The group promotes several conservation programs including its First Saturday Stewardship effort where members and volunteers clean up trash on a stretch of U.S. Highway 95.

The organization also collaborated with local school districts regarding public lands education efforts, said Davis.

Davis said now, more than ever, it is important to the public to help safeguard the high desert.

“Our public lands are being visited more and more frequently but there are struggles to keep up with it. We are able to step in and help public land management agencies on little things like trash cleanup and sign postings,” said Davis.

Davis said his organization wants to ensure public lands are open to all.

“We want it to be well taken care of but visited,” he said.

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