Enforcing Conservation Laws
In Defense of Oregon's high desert
Through our Sagesteppe Defense Program, ONDA implements strategic and thoughtful enforcement of environmental laws to safeguard Oregon’s deserts. We work to hold federal land management agencies accountable, ensuring that Oregon’s arid lands and waterways receive the protection they deserve.
Enforcing conservation laws is challenging. Our legal efforts have played a critical role in protecting Oregon’s desert lands and rivers. Since 2001, we have won or successfully settled more than 85% of our federal actions. This has resulted in protection of literally millions of acres of public land throughout Oregon. A sampling of significant ONDA legal achievements over the years includes:
- Protecting Steens Mountain from industrial-scale energy development when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2016 that the Department of the Interior failed to consider how the project would destroy crucial winter habitat for the imperiled Greater sage-grouse.
- Protecting untrammeled wilderness on Steens Mountain when a federal district court in 2015 ruled that the Steens Act prohibits off-road driving in the mountain's spectacular Wilderness Study Areas.
- Establishing a major conservation fund to preserve lands and wildlife habitat and retire grazing permits in the Greater Hart-Sheldon ecosystem corridors in 2012.
- Winning a precedent-setting case requiring the Bureau of Land Management to study two land use plans' impacts to wilderness values across 7.8 million acres of public lands in the Owyhee and Hart-Sheldon landscapes in southeast Oregon in 2010.
- Winning court decisions, protective injunctions, and settlements preventing the Bureau of Land Management from converting more than 125 miles of primitive or naturally reclaimed routes into mechanically constructed roads on Steens Mountain in 2009, 2011, and again in 2015.
- Protecting against livestock grazing projects that would destroy wilderness values and wildlife habitat in places like Steens Mountain in 2009 and 2011, Juniper Mountain in 2006 and 2007, Louse Canyon in the Owyhee Canyonlands in 2006, and Beaty Butte in 2006.
- in the John Day River basin 2008-2012.
- Halting hundreds of oil and gas leases offered for sale without considering impacts to wilderness in 2007.
Time and again, our legal efforts have provided necessary protection for Oregon’s high desert gems.