5 reasons to be grateful for Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands

After decades of efforts to protect Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands, the dedication, passion and support of tens of thousands of Oregonians, veterans, sportsmen, health care providers, local elected officials, small business owners, recreation, and conservation groups has vaulted this special part of Oregon onto the national scene. Once a relatively unknown place, the Owyhee is now a state and national conservation priority.

An incredible wave of momentum, awareness and urgency to protect the Owyhee continues to grow. The need to protect this place – as well as the broad support for it – is abundantly clear: Over 85,000 from Oregon and beyond support permanent protection for the Owyhee Canyonlands and our wild public lands.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to be grateful that places like the Owyhee still exist. But we can’t stop there! Let’s continue to roll up our sleeves and tackle the hard, good work that needs to be done to get this special place the protection it deserves. But first, a moment of gratitude for the Owyhee’s many wonders …

1. Home to the darkest night skies in the country
Photo: Sean BagshawThe Owyhee is one of the only places in the Lower 48 to view the Milky Way free of light pollution. It ranks in the top 1 percent of all Western U.S. lands for dark night skies. An exceptional place for stargazing, you may see stars with the naked eye that you haven’t seen in decades – maybe ever. Familiar constellations can be nearly impossible to find because of the sheer riot of stars in the sky.

2. An economic powerhouse in rural Oregon
The Owyhee offers world-class outdoor recreation, including hiking, biking, swimming, rafting, hunting and fishing. A recent economic study determined that the outdoor recreation industry creates more than 700 jobs and contributes nearly $70 million annually to the local economy. Additionally, Oregon’s outdoor recreation industry generates $12.8 billion a year in consumer spending and 141,000 jobs in the state.

3. Critical connectivity for wildlife
Mule deer. Photo: Larry ArbanasThe Owyhee Canyonlands is home to more than 200 species of wildlife, including golden eagles, pronghorn, elk, the imperiled Greater sage-grouse, and one of the largest herds of California bighorn sheep in the nation. In fact, a recent ecological study found that the Owyhee is part of a critically important wildlife corridor. Its abundant, clean water is also home to brown, rainbow, and redband trout and large and smallmouth bass.

4. It’s intact … for now
At 2.5 million acres, Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands represents one of the most important conservation opportunities outside of Alaska. If preserved, it would be one of the biggest intact landscapes remaining in the American West, providing a network of protected areas — including critical migration corridors — to help wildlife adapt to climate change. But proposed energy development and mining are threatening the diverse and wild character of this area.

5. It could help save the Greater sage-grouse
Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceDue to the area’s lack of paved roads, low population density and remoteness, the Owyhee Canyonlands encompasses one of the largest remaining expanses of high-quality sagebrush steppe habitat in the West. One of the most imperiled and important species tied to the sagebrush steppe ecosystem of the Owyhee Canyonlands is the Greater sage-grouse. An indicator species for overall ecosystem health, sage-grouse rely on vast expanses of unfragmented sagebrush for cover, diet, nesting and mating grounds. The Owyhee Canyonlands has been identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as one of six key strongholds for the Greater sage-grouse in the West. Thus, the degree to which this area is protected from development and fragmentation will be critical to the bird’s survival, as well as to the other species that live there.

Help preserve the Owyhee Canyonlands today! If you haven't already, sign the petition urging for permanent protection.