FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ONDA to testify in defense of public lands in Salem House hearing Thursday
The Oregon Natural Desert Association will testify Thursday, Feb. 16, in Salem against a short-sighted bill aimed at divesting Americans and Oregonians of our public lands.
Oregon House Bill 2365, put forth by Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver and Rep. Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass, would take the first step toward removing Oregon’s public lands from public ownership. The bill would establish a legislative task force to study seizing America’s public lands and giving them to the state – a move that big money special interests have pushed in state legislatures across the West.
The bill is scheduled for a public hearing at 8 a.m. in Hearing Room D of the Capitol before the House Committee On Agriculture and Natural Resources. The public is invited to testify by arriving at least 15 minutes before the hearing to sign up on the list.
“The outcome of this bill would not be state land management. The outcome would ultimately be the sale of our public lands when the state can’t afford to manage them,” Oregon Natural Desert Association Executive Director Brent Fenty said. “The huge costs of fighting wildfires and managing our lands and waterways can only be shouldered by the federal government – which is fair, given these lands are owned by all Americans.”
Similar legislation in other Western states, such as Wyoming and Montana, has been met with vocal opposition from hunters, fishermen, outdoor recreation enthusiasts and businesses who vehemently oppose efforts to seize American public lands.
“It might seem like just a study, but really this is a slippery slope,” Fenty said. “We would all be much better served if our state legislators would press Congress to support the chronically underfunded agencies that manage our high desert public lands and national forests. Then they would have the money they need to care for these places for the benefit of all.”
American public lands are economic drivers for local economies. The high quality of life in Oregon draws industry and jobs to the state, and outdoor recreation-related businesses in Oregon account annually for 141,000 direct jobs, $4 billion in wages and $955 million in state and local tax revenues, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.
“Public lands are a core part of our way of life in Oregon,” Fenty said. “Calls to seize or sell America’s public lands put many Oregonians’ livelihoods at risk. They also jeopardize everyone’s access, whether it’s for hiking, hunting, and fishing or for clean drinking water.”
In addition to Whisnant and Wilson – the bill’s chief sponsors – the bill’s other sponsors are Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, and Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer.
Now in its 30th year, the Oregon Natural Desert Association is a Bend-based nonprofit organization with a mission to protect, defend, and restore Oregon’s high desert. We’re working to protect stunning, ecologically significant areas in the Central Oregon Backcountry, Greater Hart-Sheldon Region, John Day River Basin and Owyhee Canyonlands, and we have long been involved in conservation efforts at Steens Mountain and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Learn more at ONDA.org.