Originally introduced in the 116th Congress, the Malheur Community Empowerment for the Owyhee Act (S.2828), also known as the Malheur CEO Act, aims to protect more than 1.1 million acres of vital yet threatened ecological, recreational, and cultural places throughout Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands and public lands. This act will also provide Malheur County—Oregon’s most impoverished county—with significant economic development opportunities.
On June 9th, 2023, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley introduced a new and improved version of the bill as SB 1890: "A bill to provide for the establishment of a grazing management program on Federal land in Malheur County, Oregon, and for other purposes".
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden developed this bill steadily and holistically over the course of several months. In order to have a wide variety of perspectives on how to improve the ecological and economical health of Malheur County, Senator Wyden consulted with numerous individuals from all walks of life, including ranchers, sportsmen and women, members of Indigenous tribes and nations, conservationists, county representatives, and business leaders. This bill is a pragmatic compromise that breaks decades of gridlock and offers a way forward in the face of urgent concerns like climate change and rampant fire cycles.
Based on diverse stakeholder input, Senator Wyden designed the Malheur CEO Act to preserve wildlife habitat, pristine waterways, and backcountry recreation opportunities while also respecting private property rights, facilitating access to public lands, improving the ecological health of the sagebrush steppe ecosystem, and supporting and diversifying local economies.
The Malheur CEO Act is both a landmark public lands conservation bill as well as a rural economic development bill. Below, we’ve listed the characteristics that constitute the well-rounded complexity of this bill.
Landmark public lands conservation
This bill aims to:
Safeguard the Owyhee’s deep red-rock canyons, rolling plains, wild rivers, and ample recreational opportunities for future generations;
Protect the area’s fascinating geology, rich ancient history, healthy wildlife habitat, and unique ecology; and
Prevent extractive and industrial development that would permanently damage these irreplaceable public lands.
Rural economic development
This bill aims to:
Ensure that activities like fishing, boating, hunting, and hiking continue forever;
Allow working farms and ranches to continue to operate; and
Bolster local communities by investing in workforce development, improving infrastructure, and encouraging sustainable tourism.
The Malheur CEO Act was developed on three main objectives:
Support rural communities and economies
Protect the most vulnerable and wild places in Malheur County
Complete the first two objectives without undermining bedrock conservation laws
● Designates ~1.1 million acres of Wilderness in the Owyhee Canyonlands and
surrounding areas, building upon ~520,000 acres of adjacent Wilderness designated in
Idaho’s Owyhee Canyonlands in 2009;
● Moves ~30,000 acres of land into trust for the Burns Paiute Tribe;
● Establishes a flexible, science‐based grazing management and monitoring program
designed to improve the ecological health of public lands;
● Creates a consensus‐based, multi‐stakeholder organization – the “CEO Group” – to
develop and fund restoration and management projects; and
● Supports economic development, tourism and recreational opportunities in Malheur