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Guardians of the Owyhee: A Call to Protect Our Western Frontier



Photo by: Andrea Bonadiman

Out on the Western front, when you grow up in the vastness of open spaces, rolling hills, and abundance of access to public lands; it is easy to dismiss what privilege we have at our doorstep. Locally, people pose the question of “Why protect the Owyhee Canyonlands?” To that I have many answers… that all stem from the common ground that it is essentially our backyard.


Recently, I was given the opportunity to attend a training in Central Oregon, with a diverse group of people all ranging in age and residential location across the United States. This was provided by the Wyss Foundation for the newly signed Fellows of 2024. (The Wyss Foundation has funded my position of Campaign Coordinator through a grant of the Fellowship, which I received Jan. 3rd). I was reminded from the different perspectives of this cohort that to live in Malheur County is an honor that should be appreciated.


Nestled in the southeastern corner of Oregon, the Owyhee Canyonlands hold a plethora of stories and history, ranging from those who were on the land before anyone else such as the Shoshone-Bannock and Numu (Northern Paiute), to the settlers like the Basque. When you step inside the canyon you’re met with walls of red rock, pillars standing in time. It’s hard to not be in awe of the colors that illuminate through the different lighting as the sun dances through.  Some say it’s a barren desert, however; I proudly disagree. I know firsthand that it is thriving with life, both on land and water. From the mink that lives along the river near the Owyhee Dam, to the Red Band Trout tucked deep in the waters of the wilderness and the Pronghorn Antelope that jaunt through the sagebrush at speeds only our spirit can keep up with. Life is everywhere within this land.


Photo by: Andrea Bonadiman


Perhaps if we stop to listen to the stories told by those who have been touched by this land for generations we would come to know how special it really is. If you spend a day immersed in the Owyhee Canyonlands, it is clear to see that it is not a choice to protect the Owyhee but a necessity. We hold a responsibility to our grandchildren and to be stewards of the land, protecting tradition, ensuring clean waters, guarding against the destructive actions by industrial development, providing a stronghold against the disruption of big blue skies and dark night skies filled with stars as far as the eye can see.


In the 3 months I have now been with Friends of the Owyhee, it has become very clear how important our voice is regarding how our public lands are managed. No matter how small we believe ourselves to be within the broad view of those who may control decisions regarding protection. May I remind you, we all have a voice and it is to be heard loud and clearly. Currently, protections for the Owyhee Canyonlands are a topic that is on the table and being discussed. Even you can have a voice for this land. Please help us along with the wide-reaching coalition to Protect The Owyhee, by signing the petition here: https://www.protecttheowyhee.org/ -Written By: Andrea Bonadiman, Campaign Coordinator



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