U.S. House passes Greg Walden's proposal to prevent Owyhee Desert national monument designation

July 9, 2015
Press Release

U.S. House passes Greg Walden’s proposal to prevent Owyhee Desert national monument designation 

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a proposal from U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) to stop the Obama Administration from making any national monument declarations in Malheur County, like the Owyhee Desert.

“The President shouldn’t be able to lock up thousands of acres of federal land to all productive uses with just the stroke of his pen and no say from the people who are most affected. Some have identified the Owyhee Desert as a target for a national monument designation, and I have heard strong local opposition to such an action. Unilaterally locking up over 2.1 million acres of this land—an area larger than the state of Delaware—would halt grazing on these lands, putting many family ranching operations at risk and damaging the local economy,” Walden said. “My proposal would stop the Obama Administration from unilaterally locking up the Owyhee. Public lands decisions should be made in the sunshine with full input from affected citizens like farmers and ranchers.”

Walden’s proposal was included in a funding bill for the Department of the Interior, and prevents the Administration from using any funds to move forward with a monument designation in Malheur County. Click here to read the amendment. The amendment would also promote national monument designations in other counties in Oregon, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah where there has been strong local opposition to such a move.

Community leaders have opposed the national monument designation and urged legislation to stop it. In a letter to Walden and Oregon’s Senators last year, the Malheur County Court wrote that they “do not endorse, recognize, or in any way accept the proposal by the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) to create a 2.1 million acre wilderness area in Malheur County […] This wilderness area proposal is NOT in our best interest.”

“The designation of Owyhee Desert for placement of a National Monument under the Antiquities Act would place a huge hindrance on local ranchers,” said Jerome Rosa, Executive Director of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. He added that a designation “would create a deficit on the availability of grazing land and irrigation capabilities currently available to local ranchers in an increasingly demanding market.”