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RangeNet Project
Project SEORMP


Massive BLM Plan Charts a Flawed Future for Oregon's High Desert

URGENT ACTION ALERT: Massive BLM Plan Charts a Flawed Future for Oregon's High Desert; You Can Help Set BLM on the Right Course!

10,000 Square Miles of Oregon's Desert Wildlands Are on the Line...Please Send Comments by March 1!


The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is now seeking comments on its Southeast Oregon Resource Management Plan, a massive planning document (it weighs in at 5 lbs. and stands nearly 2.5" high) that will guide the management of 6.3 million acres of public lands over the next 20 years.

These lands -- which span the far southeastern corner of Oregon and include places like Steens Mountain, Alvord Desert, Owyhee Canyonlands, and the Blitzen River -- provide critical habitat for rare kit fox, threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout, and dwindling populations of sage grouse.  Within this remote extension of the Great Basin lies some of our nation's wildest roadless areas.

But many of these wild places are in a state of ecological red alert, thanks in large part to livestock grazing.  The bulk of the SEORMP's 6.3 million acres are wholly unsuited to cattle grazing, yet the BLM's preferred alternative does virtually nothing to change the grazing status quo.

Now is our chance to tell the BLM to get serious about protecting Oregon's magnificent desert wildlands.


Please write to the BLM today.  Comments are due by March 1, 1999.  Here are some points to make in your letter:

1)  Urge the BLM to reject Alternative C (the agency's preferred alternative; more information about Alt. C appears below) and instead choose a *strengthened Alternative D* that excludes livestock grazing from:

*  Wild and Scenic Rivers, such as the Blitzen and Owyhee Rivers;

*  Riparian areas;

*  Critical fish and wildlife habitat;

*  Areas of Critical Environmental Concern;

*  Wilderness study areas; and

*  Grazing allotments in "fair" or "poor" condition.

2)  Tell the BLM that "adaptive management," upon which this plan is heavily reliant, is no substitute for objective standards and guidelines; without constant, on-the-ground monitoring (a logistical impossibility within the understaffed BLM), adaptive management may only lead to further resource degradation.  Further, adaptive management allows for a degree of latitude that is unacceptable in a major planning document such as the SEORMP.

3)  In your letter, discuss any wilderness study areas, rivers, or other areas you know first-hand; tell the BLM why you want to see these places protected.

Send your comments by March 1, 1999, to:

Ed Singleton, Vale District Manager
Vale District BLM Office
100 Oregon Street
Vale, OR 97918


The Southeast Oregon Resource Management Plan identifies five alternatives for the future management of 6.3 million acres (almost 10% of Oregon's landmass!) of federal lands in the Burns and Vale Districts of the BLM. These alternatives range from Alternative A, which emphasizes commodity production and extractive uses, to Alternative E, which provides for minimal human intervention.  The BLM has selected Alternative C, which is designed to "protect natural values while allowing for commodity production," as its preferred alternative.

While Alternative C attempts to "do it all," this management option is seriously flawed.  Alternative C:

*  fails to call for any livestock grazing reductions, even when resource damage occurs;

*  allows 3,000 cows to continue grazing along the Wild and Scenic Blitzen River, contrary to agency scientists' recommendations;

*  nominates only 43 out of 289 river miles that are eligible for Wild and Scenic River status;

*  proposes a Steens Mountain National Conservation Area, but makes no changes to grazing management there;

*  leaves the overwhelming majority of the planning area (3.8 million acres) open to off-road vehicle use, while closing less than 1% of the area (22,000 acres) to ORVs;

*  relies on controversial "adaptive management," a tool the BLM has used in the past to justify allowing livestock operators to graze beyond the limits of the their permits; and

*  fails to satisfy the SEORMP's stated intent to adhere to ecosystem management principles.

A strengthened and improved Alternative D is the BLM's -- and the land's -- best bet.  Alternative D comes much closer to meeting the SEORMP's ecosystem management goals.  Alternative D would:

*  allow for reductions in livestock grazing levels;

*  emphasize undeveloped types of recreation;

*  de-emphasize fire suppression;

*  restore or close recreation sites where natural values are jeopardized by overuse;

*  add 26 new Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, totaling 191,000 acres;

*  propose 289 river miles for federal Wild and Scenic River status.

Still, Alternative D needs improvement.  It fails to set reasonable limits on livestock grazing and would allow for the continued degradation of cherished wild places such as Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert.

If the BLM intends to protect these 6.3 million acres for future generations, it MUST choose a strengthened Alternative D (please see above, "WHAT YOU CAN DO," for more information about improving Alternative D).

If you have any questions about the Southeast Oregon Resource Management Plan or submitting comments, please contact Gilly Lyons at (503) 525-0193 or

Thank you very much for your help!

Gilly Lyons, Grassroots Coordinator
Oregon Natural Desert Association
732 SW 3rd Avenue, Suite 407
Portland, OR 97204

Ph:  (503) 525-0193
Fax: (503) 228-9720 (please call first)
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