'I don't want to run a different business'

  • Fred Otley

    Stephen Stuebner photo
 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Fred Otley is a fourth-generation rancher on Steens Mountain in the Kiger Creek and Kiger Gorge area. He is the coordinator of Friends of Steens Mountain, a group of local citizens and ranchers, and is a "private landowner liaison" to the Resource Advisory Council.

"We're open to all the alternatives ... there may be some designation that will help the old girl. That's what I call the mountain, the old girl. Because I've got a lot of respect for her, and she's really rough and tough.

"But I'm concerned that this process and whole discussion could do a lot of damage on the mountain. Over the years, we have tried to manage Steens Mountain as one landscape. There aren't a lot of fences up there, and recreationists don't realize that 75 percent of the time, they're camping on private land. And we don't have any problem with that. Some of the neatest lands up there, landowners let the people use for free.

"This mountain means so much to so many people. A major change in administration is not going to be acceptable to a lot of them. When this thing is over, and a family decides to go camping on Steens Mountain, they'll have to buy a permit before they go.

"We've worked really hard to manage the area in a progressive manner. Our land is in good and excellent condition ... Out here, we see ourselves as a private land manager, a co-owner of the mountain with the BLM. It makes sense to continue that private-public partnership. We're concerned that the wrong type of designation or wrong language could screw that up.

"Basically, I don't want to run a different business. I don't want a golf course by my horse pasture. I don't want to run a bed and breakfast. We're in the business we want to be in, and we think it's sustainable."