BLM’s revised plan impacts off-highway travel

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has announced that more than 400,000 acres of public lands will receive extra protections.

The Southeastern Oregon Resource Management Plan will guide off-highway vehicles and influence projects that could change the rangelands, such as mining and renewable energy projects.

The revised plan ends fights over resource management that spanned decades. The federal agency amended the plan in response to court challenges from conservation groups, including the Oregon Natural Desert Association, according to a recent press release from the bureau.

The revised plan, which takes effect immediately, will limit off-highway vehicles, including dirt bikes and ATVs, to roughly 40,000 acres near Keeney Pass, outside of Vale. These areas that will remain open will be limited to existing routes in order to protect special habitat areas, the plan notes.

About 15,000 acres within the Dry Creek Butte Wilderness Study Area at the south end of Lake Owyhee near Watson will be closed, according to BLM maps. Additionally, 1,000 acres will remain closed farther within the Spring Mountain Area, according to the BLM.

Shane DeForest, Vale BLM district manager, said the biggest change on the ground most people will see are signs reminding people to stay on existing routes.

DeForest said the revised plan was the product of hard work and collaboration among various groups, including tribal governments, conservation groups, wildfire agencies, and the public.

“We have been waiting for this day for a number of years,” he said. “For  some of the folks that have worked in the office, this is sort of the culmination of a large percentage of their career’s effort.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly cited that about 16,000 acres of public land would be closed near Bully Creek Reservoir, north of Vale, based on information shared by Shane DeForest, Vale BLM district manager. The Enterprise regrets the error.

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