New Study: Owyhee Protections Would Benefit Malheur Economy

A new study out from independent research firm Southwick and Associates has found that outdoor recreation activities contribute nearly $70 million to Malheur County’s local economy and support more than 700 jobs.  The study also projects that proposals to permanently protect the Owyhee Canyonlands could more than double recreation and tourism related spending.
It’s no surprise to anyone who has visited Oregon that the state’s amazing outdoor wonders are a major economic driver. Oregon’s recreational fishing industry accounts for more than $1 billion in economic activity annually, with over $90 million of that coming from Eastern Oregon. Anglers travel from across the country to eastern Oregon in particular to fish the Owyhee River because they have heard of the river’s spectacular brown trout fishery. Money spent by visitors supports local fishing guides, the retailers supplying anglers withtackle, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses providing services to the visitors. 

The study limited its assessment to spending from travelers within 150 miles of the Owyhee region. As a result, the economic benefits of recreation in Malheur County found in the study are conservative. The full economic benefit likely extends beyond Malheur County and the immediate region to larger metropolitan areas such as Portland and Bend. For example, the Outdoor Industry Association estimates that outdoor recreation generates $12.8 billion in consumer spending, supporting more than 141,000 jobs across the state.   
The Owyhee region and Malheur County have a lot to offer outdoor adventurers in addition to fishing. Hunters vie eagerly each year for a tag to hunt California Bighorn Sheep in the region, and hiking, camping, rafting and stargazing are also popular pastimes.
These incredible recreation opportunities are supported by the wild nature of the Owyhee Canyonlands. A recent ecological study identified the area as part of an important wildlife corridor for species like mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep. The lands connect more than a million acres of wilderness study areas, providing ample opportunities for both wildlife and people to roam. The area is also home to some of the darkest night skies, which is topping on the cake for many visitors. 
It’s clear that protecting the Owyhee Canyonlands could provide a significant boost to Malheur County’s outdoor recreation economy, providing a steady stream of economic activity driven by the wild of the Owyhee.  Polling has shown that the vast majority (70%) of Oregonians support safeguarding the Owyhee.  And every day more voices join the more than 35,000 people from the state, and beyond, in calling for protections for Oregon’s Owyhee.  This report just further affirms that protecting this place now will be good for the economy and our cultural and natural heritage.  

Photos: Tim Neville, Dave Predeek and Greg Burke