Wilderness wallows in rural county

  After months of considering whether to support the creation of a Badlands Wilderness about 20 miles east of Bend, Ore., the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 in late March to do nothing, effectively leaving the proposal in limbo.

It could have been worse, says commission chair Tom DeWolf. "They can take solace in the fact we didn't vote to oppose the wilderness." DeWolf supports protecting the 37,000 acres of gnarled volcanic landscape as federal wilderness. But he says he reluctantly joined in the board's "no position" vote, since he and his colleagues didn't agree, and two votes were needed for action on the proposal.

Local citizens like the idea: a poll commissioned by the Oregon Natural Desert Association in February found that 69 percent of Deschutes County voters support wilderness designation. Hundreds testified at a hearing in late January, and most backed wilderness; three-quarters of the 1,572 cards and letters submitted to the commission were in support. Even the local mountain-biking organization supports the proposal, although bikes aren't allowed in wilderness areas (HCN, 6/7/04: Mountain bikers go wild). The wilderness opponents are led by off-road vehicle users.

Oregon's congressional delegation is reluctant to introduce a wilderness bill without the backing of local politicians. A spokesman for Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., says his boss won't do so without local political support. Second District Rep. Greg Walden, R, says the commission vote "tells me there's a lack of consensus either for or against this legislation."

In the meantime, the Badlands has temporary protection as a wilderness study area. The BLM management plan that was implemented this spring closed Route 8, a dirt road running through the heart of the Badlands, to all vehicles. Bill Marlett, executive director of the Oregon Natural Desert Association, says he's heartened by the way the area is now managed. Still, he's disappointed by the county commissioners' lack of action: "We pitched them a softball," he says, "and they whiffed."

High Country News Classifieds
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • DYNAMIC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    VARD is seeking an Executive Director to lead a small legal & planning staff dedicated to the health and sustainability of Teton Valley Idaho and...
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • CAMPAIGNS DIRECTOR
    Southeast Alaska Conservation is hiring. Visit https://www.seacc.org/about/hiring for info. 907-586-6942 [email protected]
  • FINANCE & GRANTS MANAGER
    The Blackfoot Challenge, located in Ovando, MT, seeks a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to conduct bookkeeping, financial analysis and reporting, and grant oversight and management. Competitive...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....
  • CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, BOOKS, CULTURE AND COMMENTARY (PART-TIME, CONTRACT)
    High Country News is seeking a Contributing Editor for Books, Culture and Commentary to assign and edit inquisitive, inspiring, and thought-provoking content for HCN in...
  • STATEWIDE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    ABOUT US Better Wyoming is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that educates, organizes, and mobilizes Wyoming residents on behalf of statewide change. Learn more at...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    TwispWorks is a 501(c)3 that promotes economic and cultural vitality in the mountainous Methow Valley, the eastern gateway to North Cascades National Park in Washington...
  • CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCATE OR DIRECTOR
    Location: Helena, Montana Type: Permanent, full time after 1-year probationary period. Reports to: Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs. Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state...
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Restore Hetch Hetchy, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, seeks experienced development professional to identify and engage individuals and institutions who are inspired to help underwrite...
  • PUBLIC LANDS COUNSEL
    The successful candidate will be the organization's lead counsel on public lands issues, including reviewing federal administrative actions and proposed policy and helping to shape...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR
    Solar Energy International (SEI) is a 501(c)3 non-profit education organization with a mission to provide industry-leading technical training and expertise in renewable energy to empower...
  • TRAINING MANAGER
    This is a full-time position based out of our Paonia office. This position is responsible for organizing all of Solar Energy International's renewable energy trainings....
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...