BLM Plan Would Open Oregon Public Lands to Development

Proposal threatens nearly 5 million acres with high natural, recreational value

BLM Plan Would Open Oregon Public Lands to Development
In Malheur County, Oregon, along the border with Idaho and Nevada, people explore one of the vast canyons that stretch for miles.
Nate Wilson

In May, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a draft resource management plan amendment that will guide how 4.6 million acres of public lands in southeastern Oregon are managed for the next two decades. The Pew Charitable Trusts has been working with a range of stakeholders to ensure that the plan balances conservation of habitat and species with recreation.

However, the BLM’s preferred alternative (Alternative A) does not protect any of the wildest places—known as lands with wilderness characteristics—which contain intact wildlife habitat boasting more than 200 species, provide outdoor recreational opportunities, house some of the darkest skies in the nation, and generate clean water. Despite years of work to conduct extensive on-the-ground inventories and identify over 1 million acres with wilderness characteristics, the agency appears ready to implement a plan that doesn’t protect any of these remarkable lands.   

Here are five places that could be open to development under the preferred alternative:

1. Birch Creek

The Birch Creek area, in Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands, is framed by 600-foot ochre- and chocolate-colored cliffs that serve as a home to Bullock's orioles, raptors, mule deer, and bighorn sheep. People come to the area to raft the wild and scenic Owyhee River, explore historic buildings, hike miles of trails, and camp in shady groves.
Devin Dahlgren

2. Three Fingers

With its vast flat expanses, rolling hills, and steep canyons, Three Fingers offers sweeping vistas that attract visitors from near and far. The area’s sagebrush and Sandberg bluegrass serve as a home to greater sage-grouse, California bighorn sheep, pronghorn, mule deer, elk, spotted bats, kit foxes, and migratory birds. From the highest point, hikers and campers can view the Snake River Plain and faraway high mountains.
Mark W. Lisk

3. Camp Creek

Southeastern Oregon contains some of the best big -game habitat in the state. Camp Creek’s high desert is home to elk, mule deer, and bighorn sheep, and Bully Creek, the Malheur River, and seasonal streams flow through this remote place, making it a spectacular place to fish, bird, hunt, and camp.
Devlin Holloway

4. West Little Owyhee

Hikers trek this remote area, whose canyon walls rise to 400 feet in places. Along the way, they can wade through pools and across rivers, traverse rocky terrain dotted with wildflowers, and navigate ancient canyons. The West Little Owyhee is part of the Oregon Desert Trail, a 750-mile route that visitors explore by foot, horseback, bicycle, and boat.
Jeremy Fox

5. Dry Creek

A backpacker and dog traverse Oregon’s high desert, recognized for its exceptional scenic, historic, and cultural values. It serves as critical habitat for species such as native redband trout and California bighorn sheep.
Oregon Natural Desert Association

The BLM is accepting public comment on southeastern Oregon’s draft resource management plan amendment until Aug. 28. This is your chance to tell the agency that you want a plan that protects the region’s wildest lands, considers local stakeholder input, and safeguards wildlife habitat and recreational places from development.

Ken Rait is a project director for The Pew Charitable Trusts’ U.S. Public Lands and Rivers Conservation program.

Oregon
Article

5 Reasons to Protect Public Lands in Southeastern Oregon

Quick View
Article

5 Reasons to Protect Public Lands in Southeastern Oregon

In Malheur County, Oregon, nestled along the border with Idaho and Nevada, rest 5 million acres of spectacular canyons and desert. Most of this area—4.6 million acres—falls under the purview of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is expected to release a draft plan soon on how the land is to be used for the next two decades.

Hoodoo Mountain area
Article

Sportsman’s Paradise in Montana Merits Continued Protection

Quick View
Article

Sportsman’s Paradise in Montana Merits Continued Protection

Western Montana is home to an expanse of wild and remote public land that seems lifted from an outdoor-recreation brochure: 162,000 acres of forested hills, valleys, mountains, and streams that include winter range and migration corridors for big game such as elk, mule deer, moose, and bighorn sheep, and critical habitat for upland birds and native cutthroat trout.

Montana
Article

Central Montana Public Lands Plan Should Balance Conservation and Development

Quick View
Article

Central Montana Public Lands Plan Should Balance Conservation and Development

For the first time in more than 20 years, the Bureau of Land Management’s Lewistown Field Office is updating the resource management plan (RMP) that will guide the future of public lands in that part of central Montana.

Public Lands
Public Lands
Article

Wildlife-Related Recreation on BLM Lands Boosts Rural Economies

Quick View
Article

Wildlife-Related Recreation on BLM Lands Boosts Rural Economies

There are many reasons Americans love their public lands. Many of these wide-open spaces are overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), contain breathtaking vistas and often serve as important habitat for a variety of species.