Is the DOI dismantling the BLM?

Renee Patrick

Having a hard time keeping up with public lands news lately? We can’t blame you. The instability in the White House certainly makes all issues hard to track and follow, and as this Outside article summed it up: There’s a lot happening at DOI right now.

In Oregon, over 13.5 million acres, mainly in the high desert, fall under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management. Nationwide, the agency is the country’s largest land manager.

The BLM has become the target of top-down interference by the Trump administration which has current and former Bureau of Land Management officials concerned not only about the lands this agency manages, but about the future of the agency itself.

In Scott Streater’s article, “Does Trump want to dismantle BLM?,” Steve Ellis, the bureau’s former deputy director of operations, is quoted saying: “At the end of the day, it is about dismantling BLM. When you connect the dots, it’s not hard to see that is the administration’s goal. America’s public land heritage is at risk.”

Here’s a summary of three key issues at the BLM that will impact Oregon’s sagebrush steppe.



What defines Oregon’s high desert?

What defines Oregon’s high desert?

Bounded by the Cascade Mountains to the west and the Blue Mountains to the north, Oregon’s high desert covers approximately 24,000 square miles. Annual rainfall in the high desert varies from 5 to 14 inches. The average elevation is 4,000 feet; at 9,733 feet, the summit of Steens Mountain is the highest point in Oregon’s high desert. The terrain of the high desert was mostly formed by a series of lava flows that occurred between 30 and 10 million years ago.

Sources: The Oregon Encyclopedia; Wikipedia  


Helen Harbin, ONDA Board Member

Helen Harbin, ONDA Board Member

“I connect with Oregon’s high desert through my feet, my eyes, my sense of smell, and all the things I hear. Getting out there is a whole body experience.” Supporting ONDA, Helen says, not only connects her with wild landscapes, but is also a good investment. “I felt like if I gave them $20, they might squeeze $23 out of it.”


Stewardship Fence Building Timelapse

Stewardship Fence Building Timelapse

The BLM is moving out of D.C.

The Bureau of Land Management has moved its offices from Washington D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado – a move that former agency officials have called out as an attempt to weaken the voice of long-time BLM staffers who might provide a more balanced approach to land management across millions of acres that the BLM manages.

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BLM’s latest acting director doesn’t believe in public lands

The Trump administration’s move to appoint William Perry Pendley to the top policy position at the Bureau of Land Management came as yet another blow in its continued assault on public lands.

When he assumed the role of acting director of the BLM at the end of July, the announcement caused widespread alarm across the conservation community, particularly in Western states. As The Washington Post reported, “By placing Pendley in charge of the agency, Bernhardt has installed a longtime crusader for curtailing the federal government’s control of public lands.”

Last week, 11 Senators, including Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, wrote to Interior Secretary Bernhardt to request that Pendley’s appointment be terminated immediately, stating, “The American people deserve better.” Pendley’s initial 60-day tenure as acting chief formally ended on September 30, but Interior Secretary David Bernhardt extended Pendley’s time leading the bureau four months via a secretarial order.

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BLM drops conservation from resource management plans in several Western states

This summer, ONDA brought the deficiencies of the BLM’s Southeastern Oregon Resource Management Plan to our community’s attention and people weighed in – to the tune of 6,000-plus public comments urging for conservation in the Owyhee Canyonlands.

Resource management plans are the comprehensive documents that the BLM uses to guide how they will address issues on the landscapes they manage. Every two decades, the agency revises these management plans and sets forth several proposals in an effort to balance development and conservation and ensure that the management of these lands reflects the public’s interest.

In a move that alarmed conservationists across the country, the draft plans released in this cycle – covering more than 20 million acres in Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon – significantly reduced protections that had been in place for decades and proposed minimal new safeguards for only a fraction of 1 percent of the areas.

If you think it’s important that Alaska Natives can continue to depend on the fish and wildlife that live in the Alaska Bering Sea-Western Interior region, or you’ve hiked among the pinyons and pines in the Uncompahgre Plateau in Colorado, then the BLM’s Resource Management Plans matter to you.

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