Letters: Collaborative responds to Bentz comments on Steens ‘crowds’

To the Editor:

The undersigned are members of the Steens Mountain Advisory Council, a regional advisory council similar to the group of citizens that proposed the Malheur County Empowerment for the Owyhee Act.

The Enterprise reports that U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz claims Steens Mountain is overrun by tourists and great damage is being done. Statistics available from the Bureau of Land Management show that the number of visitors to the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management & Protection Area (CMPA) peaked slightly right after the legislation creating the CMPA passed, and again during the pandemic, but is actually down now, the lowest in at least five years.

It is clear that the overall benefits of recreation are much greater than the costs. According to The Economic Impact of Travel In Oregon 2022 by Dean Runyan Associates, tourism spending in Harney County was $26.8 million in 2022. There are certainly challenges that come with any kind of use, but we are pleased to report that the BLM is actively monitoring use and continuously working to improve management of Steens Mountain.

The Steens CMPA and its Advisory Council are a successful compromise reached by the people of Harney County.

In the Owyhee Canyonlands there is an opportunity to learn from the Steens experience and do even better by passing legislation to help make sure the BLM has the funding to properly manage recreation. Rep. Bentz has an opportunity to support the collaborative work of ranchers, local landowners, environmentalists, anglers, and hunters working for the future of the Owyhee Canyonlands, like his predecessor Rep. Greg Walden did for the Steens.

Mike Fox, Chair

Private Landowner Representative (also Secretary, Frenchglen Rangeland Fire Protection Association)

Butch Goette

Mechanized or Consumptive Recreation Representative

John F. Helmer

Dispersed Recreation Representative

Jake Jakubik

Statewide Interest Representative

Pete Runnels

Recreational Permit Holder/ Commercial Recreation Operation Representative

Terry Turner

Fish & Recreational Fishing Representative

Teresa Wicks

Local Environmental Representative

Kali Wilson

Grazing Representative

Karen Withrow

State Environmental Representative

Send letters to Editor Les Zaitz, [email protected].