The COVID-19 pandemic has taught Americans many lessons — including a reminder about just how valuable our protected public lands are. My wife and I have been out camping and hiking a lot since the pandemic, and we’ve been stunned how busy the public lands are as everyone increasingly feels the need to get out of the house.
Thanks to strong leadership from Sen. Ron Wyden, a bill that would protect more than 1 million acres of the most important and threatened ecological, cultural and recreational resources in Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands is making its way through Congress now. The Malheur Community Empowerment for Owyhee Act (S.2828) protects public lands, and is also a strong rural economic development bill, at a time when it is most needed.
As people continue to spend more time outdoors due to COVID-19, safeguarding the Owyhee Canyonlands and protecting our public lands and rivers will contribute to ensuring that we all have pure drinking water and clean air and it will provide outstanding opportunities for physical exercise and mental rejuvenation.
I am hopeful that one silver lining to 2020 might be the permanent protection of crucial wild places in the Owyhee Canyonlands, and I urge Rep. Walden and Sens. Wyden and Jeff Merkley to work together to refine and pass S.2828 in 2020 and protect more public lands for all of us who need those lands now, and for generations to come.