More than 100 Oregon businesses support protecting the Owyhee Canyonlands

Protected public lands boost the economy, support jobs

PORTLAND, Ore. (Oct. 13th, 2015) -- Moved by the critical role that Oregon’s wild, beautiful public lands play in the state’s economy, more than 100 Oregon businesses [ED1] have signed on to letters to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) urging him to support permanent protection for the Owyhee Canyonlands in southeastern Oregon.

The two letters, signed by enterprises ranging from large employers like KEEN and Yakima to small business owners, say amazing public lands like the Owyhee Canyonlands form the bedrock of Oregon’s recreation economy. To protect them, it says, is critical to Oregon’s future.

The letters, delivered to Sen. Wyden in September by the Owyhee Coalition and business representatives, go on to highlight that in Oregon alone, outdoor recreation generates $12.8 billion in consumer spending, 141,000 jobs, $4 billion in wages and salaries, and $955 million in state and local tax revenue annually. While many other sectors declined during the recession, the outdoor industry has continued to be a bright spot in the economy — growing nationally by roughly 5 percent every year between 2005 and 2011.

“The Owyhee is a national conversation, it just so happens as Oregonians, the Owyhee is in our backyard,” said Kirk Richardson, KEEN Executive. “It’s time for Oregonians to live in favor of the future. Let’s protect the Owyhee Canyonlands, not only for us, but for future generations of Americans.”

An area larger than Yellowstone National Park with just three paved roads crossing it, Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands is the largest undeveloped, unprotected expanse in the lower 48 states. Its red-rock canyons, pristine rivers and intact sagebrush uplands are home to a rich array of wildlife, including native redband trout, pronghorn, chukar and one of the largest herds of California bighorn sheep in the nation. In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified the southern portion of the Owyhee as one of the six most important areas in the nation to the survival of the imperiled Greater sage-grouse.

Oregon’s Owyhee also features plants found nowhere else on Earth, more than 500 known archeological sites and geological grandeur straight out of the Southwest. In addition, it offers exceptional hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and stargazing, to name a few.

The Owyhee Coalition, a group of state and national conservation organizations, put forward the Owyhee Canyonlands Conservation Proposal in July. It proposes that Congress take up legislation to create a 2.5-million-acre national conservation area containing 2 million acres of wilderness and more than 50 miles of designated wild and scenic rivers.

Portland-based KEEN Footwear has marshaled its own effort to protect the Owyhee Canyonlands over the last several months. The campaign, called Live Monumental, has been pressing the Obama administration to declare four new national monuments across the country, including in Oregon’s Owyhee.

"Safeguarding the Owyhee and its outstanding fishing, hunting and recreation opportunities is a landmark opportunity for all Oregonians. Maintaining access to productive public lands and rivers, like those in the Owyhee, are of key importance to the future of our businesses and to our quality of life," said Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. "Thanks to Senator Wyden and other leaders, we are closer than ever to ensuring future generations will enjoy special places like the Owyhee. I look forward to helping them bring this over the finish line."

While the movement to protect Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands has accelerated in the last year, conservation efforts have been ongoing for decades. Similar work for Idaho’s portion of the Owyhee country resulted in the creation of five new wilderness areas in 2009.

Studies – including one that focused on Malheur County, home to Oregon’s Owyhee – show that local economies in particular experience a boost from proximity to protected public land. The Owyhee Coalition has been conferring with local landowners and officials and will continue to do so in the coming months.

The Owyhee Coalition consists of regional and national groups that recognize the conservation, recreation and economic values of the Owyhee Canyonlands. Members include American Rivers, American Whitewater, Conservation Lands Foundation, Mazamas, Oregon Natural Desert Association, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society. Learn more at

MEDIA CONTACT | Keith Cozzens | Verde Brand Communications | | 970.259.3555 x122

Dan Cherry | Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association | Communications Director | 503-631-8859 |  


 [ED1]Link to Letter