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The Malheur Community Empowerment for the Owyhee Act

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.

 

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:

1

Support rural communities and economies

2

Protect the most vulnerable and wild places in Malheur County

3

Complete the first two objectives without undermining bedrock conservation laws

This bill will accomplish its goals by:

  • Protecting an astounding 1.1 million acres of the most important and threatened Malheur County public lands—including the Owyhee Canyonlands—as wilderness;

  • Adding 14 miles of Wild and Scenic River in Oregon, forever safeguarding this intact landscape and staving off numerous threats;

  • Ensuring ecological health as the driving force of public land management in Malheur County;

  • Preserving and protecting tribal access to and use of ancestral lands in perpetuity;

  • Allowing for flexible management and improving the ecological health of the landscape through the use of responsive and science-based adaptive management;

  • Creating a number of economic development opportunities for Malheur County, including investing in and developing restoration-focused research and workforce opportunities;

  • Creating a monitoring network to ensure adaptive management leads to overall ecological improvements by engaging ranchers, businesses, and conservationists as well as federal, state, and local agencies;

  • Maintaining and improving access to public lands for all; and

  • Sets out the funding necessary to monitor, conduct adaptive management, and enforce the anticipated uses of and effects of this legislation on public lands in Malheur County

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