Steppe It Up for
Greater Hart-Sheldon

Michelle Alvarado

How would you manage a few million acres of public lands in Oregon’s desert?

You will have a critical opportunity to answer that question when the Bureau of Land Management seeks input from the public on the Lakeview Resource Management Plan Amendment. This process will lay the foundation for how more than 3 million acres in the Greater Hart-Sheldon — including beloved places such as Beatys Butte, the High Lakes plateau and the Hawksie-Walksie Research Natural Area — will be managed for years to come.

As someone who cares about public lands, this is your chance to have a say in their care. By commenting on this plan, you can protect sage-grouse habitat, determine where off-road vehicles can and cannot travel, and protect wild desert places to camp, hike and bird.

Three Issues to Understand

Three main issues — Lands with Wilderness Characteristics, Off-Road Vehicle and Travel Management, and Livestock Grazing — are addressed in the Lakeview Resource Management Plan process. Read on, and you’ll have the background needed to provide substantive input on this plan.


Volunteer Accomplishment in Hart-Sheldon

Volunteer Accomplishment in Hart-Sheldon


Michelle Frisella, member since 2017

Michelle Frisella, member since 2017

So proud of ONDA and its members and volunteers. Such hard work gets done. To use an overused word, this is patriotism!


Discover Desert Pronghorn

Discover Desert Pronghorn

Grays Butte

Jim Davis   Website

1. Lands with Wilderness Characteristics

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will use the Lakeview Resource Management Plan to establish how to manage wilderness values in this region by identifying and conserving “Lands with Wilderness Characteristics.”

What are LWCs?

Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWC) are inventoried areas found to posses the characteristics essential to wilderness as described in the Wilderness Act of 1964. These areas are identified in planning, where the agency proposes management to conserve wilderness values for potential future designation as wilderness by Congress.

What characteristics define wilderness?

According to the Wilderness Act, wilderness-quality lands must possess:

  1. Sufficient size – generally 5,000 acres or larger (but this can be smaller if the area is adjacent to an existing wilderness area or wilderness study area.
  2. Naturalness – affected primarily by the forces of nature.
  3. Solitude and/or primitive recreation – outstanding opportunities for either solitude or primitive and unconfined recreation exist.
How are Lands with Wilderness Characteristics protected in planning?

Unlike wilderness or wilderness study areas, the BLM is not required by the Wilderness Act to preserve wilderness values in LWC units. However, the BLM can choose to manage LWC units to retain their wilderness values in a resource management plan.

ONDA’s take:

ONDA supports designation and appropriate management of extensive LWCs in the Greater Hart-Sheldon region and the adoption of management practices that preserve and protect wilderness values in LWC units. Protecting wilderness values in LWC units also provides protection for important wildlife habitats, limits fragmentation of the sagebrush steppe, and increases opportunities for quiet recreation such as hunting, fishing, hiking, backpacking and wildlife watching. These lands are essential for climate resiliency as the ecosystem adapts to a warming world.

Beatys Butte

Jim Davis

2. Off-Road Vehicle and Travel Management

The Lakeview Resource Management Plan will establish where, when and how off-highway vehicles (OHVs) are allowed to operate on BLM lands.

How does the BLM currently manage OHV use on BLM lands?

The BLM is required to classify all lands within a planning district into one of three OHV designations: open, closed, or limited.

The definitions for each designation are:

  1. Open: An open area is where all types of vehicle use are permitted at all times in the area, subject to operating regulation and vehicle standards.
  2. Limited: A limited area is where there are restrictions at certain times, in certain areas and/or to certain vehicular use. Generally, these restrictions fall into one of the following categories: number of vehicles, types of vehicles, time or season of use, permitted or licensed use only, use only on existing roads and trails, use only on designated roads and trails.
  3. Closed: A closed area is where off-road vehicle use is prohibited.
Where can OHVs currently operate in the Lakeview district?

Currently, more than 99.5% of the lands in the planning area are available for OHV travel, categorized as either “limited” (existing roads and ways) or “open” (off-road) to motorized use.

Changes were implemented in 2015 per the BLM’s Oregon Greater Sage-grouse Approved Resource Management Plan Amendment that reclassified 2 million acres of critical sage-grouse habitat from open to limited to conserve the species. However, large areas outside of sage-grouse range are still open to cross-country OHV travel, and, under the current administration, the fate of the changes already made to comport with the sage-grouse plan remains unclear.

What are some of the concerns regarding OHV use on public lands?

When not properly managed, OHVs can fragment wildlife habitat, impact soils and plant species, increase erosion and spread invasive species. The Council on Environmental Quality stated in a 1979 report that ORVs (off-road vehicles) have “damaged every kind of ecosystem found in the United States.” The number of OHV users on public lands has dramatically increased in recent years. At the same time, advancements in technology have allowed motorized recreationists to reach increasingly remote areas. Both factors are leading OHV use to have a greater impact on the ground.

ONDA’s take:

ONDA supports restricting OHV use to existing routes, eliminating cross-country travel and protecting intact wildlife habitat, watersheds and cultural sites. Limiting OHVs to existing routes can both protect these irreplaceable resources while still allowing for a rich experience for motorized recreationists.

Keg Springs

Jim Davis

3. Livestock Grazing

The Lakeview Resource Management Plan will establish where livestock grazing occurs and what tools are available to manage grazing. Currently, 92% of the Lakeview RMP planning area is available for grazing.

What lands are authorized for grazing?

Under the BLM’s multiple-use mandate, grazing is one of many land uses the agency is directed to provide, though it can require certain stipulations on grazing use to protect other public use and public values on public lands.

How is livestock grazing structured on the landscape?

Lands authorized for grazing are broken up into discrete regions called allotments, which are typically further divided into pastures. Each allotment has its own management plan that allocates the number of permitted Animal Unit Months, determines seasons of use and establishes a grazing management system. Resource management plans determine whether allotments are open to grazing and determine the tools available to land managers in administering grazing use on the landscape.

What is an AUM?

An AUM stands for “Animal Unit Month” and is the amount of forage that one cow-calf pair, one horse, or five sheep eat in one month. AUMs are the unit of measure used to determine the number of livestock that are allowed to graze within an allotment. The AUM is also known as the stocking rate.

What grazing management options will the BLM consider during the planning process?

The BLM will consider management alternatives that analyze whether, where, how and in what manner grazing will be permitted on the landscape.

Among other tactics, the BLM may examine management alternatives that support: voluntary grazing permit relinquishment; the identification of areas no longer available for grazing use; and closure of allotments or pastures where land health standards (used to achieve desired ecological conditions) are not being met due to livestock grazing.

ONDA’s take:

The BLM is currently without the authority to permanently retire grazing permits in the planning area to protect sensitive ecological resources and ensure an appropriate balance of multiple uses of our public lands. However, the agency can support certain processes to facilitate administrative voluntary grazing permit relinquishment, particularly in areas where continued grazing threatens wildlife, watersheds and other public values. ONDA supports the agency to establish such a program in its Lakeview plan amendment as a win-win solution for both grazing permittees and our natural resources.