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The Oregon Badlands Wilderness Bill is signed into law

By Brent Fenty

In this time of turmoil and change for our country, it is comforting to know that some things are a constant. With the signing of the momentous public lands package by President Obama on March 30, the 30,000-acre Oregon Badlands, just east of Bend, is now permanently protected as a federally designated Wilderness Area. This public lands package also protected several of Oregon's other natural gems including Spring Basin, Soda Mountain, Mount Hood and Copper-Salmon.

On behalf of the Oregon Natural Desert Association, I offer thanks to the contributions of literally thousands of Central Oregonians who understand and value the importance of these natural treasures. It is impossible to thank any particular person without failing to recognize others' contributions, but whether one worked for decades or just days on this effort, the ultimate prize for our collective labor is the knowledge that this special area is protected now and forever.

Our sincere thanks go out to Senator Ron Wyden for introducing this bill in the Senate and tirelessly leading the charge for new Wilderness in Central Oregon, as well as to Sen. Jeff Merkley, Rep. Greg Walden, Rep. Peter DeFazio, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Rep. David Wu and Rep. Kurt Schrader, who all voted to permanently protect Badlands and Spring Basin as Wilderness.

Also deserving of our thanks is Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who included these areas in his ambitious wilderness vision for the state. Without the foresight and steadfast dedication of these Oregon leaders, the special places in our state would live on only as memories and legends told to our grandchildren.

Unfortunately, there are a few amazing Badlands supporters, including Jim Witty, Larry Chitwood and Tom Sedgwick, who were not able to join us at the finish line to witness the protection of areas they held dear. Their memory serves as a reminder that wilderness transcends generations; our children and grandchildren are now assured the same opportunities for solitude and wildness that these areas are treasured for today. The Badlands will remain a place for Central Oregonians to cherish an important part of our natural history and perhaps better understand ourselves. As Jim Witty once wrote in The Bulletin, "I don't believe trees see or feel or speak in the conventional sense, but they can tell us much about a place and something, maybe, about ourselves."

Over the 20 years that local citizens have been working to protect the Badlands as wilderness, the area has gained the support of thousands of members of our community - from business owners to faith leaders, elementary school teachers and real estate agents. More and more people throughout Central Oregon area recognizing that the quality of life we enjoy here is fundamentally linked to the preservation of our rich natural heritage.

While it is considered rare for a conservation measure to have such diverse bipartisan support, the Badlands wilderness campaign shows that it doesn't have to be. We all know that our community is special, but beyond the landmarks and scenic beauty that make it so, the nature of our fellow community members and our willingness to work together to find common ground also sets us apart. This common ground is based on the agreement that maintaining Central Oregon's incredible natural surroundings is key to maintaining our quality of life and our economic health.

There are, of course, still millions of acres of unprotected wilderness throughout Oregon's High Desert including Alder Springs and the South Fork Crooked River
right here in Central Oregon. It has been said that the best judge of civilization is not what we develop but what we preserve. Our community has already proven itself to be forward-thinking and proactive by setting aside the Badlands and other areas such as the Three Sisters Wilderness.

While the long-term vision for Central Oregon includes development of many kinds, we are building the community we want our children to inherit simply by having the foresight to set aside our most special places. I look forward to seeing what other pieces of our natural heritage we can preserve together.

Brent Fenty lives in Bend. He is the Executive Director of ONDA.

Oregon Natural Desert Association - ONDA





Read more . . .
Leave No Trace
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Oregon Natural Desert Association - ONDA

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ONDA survey of Owyhee Canyon
Owyhee Canyon Wilderness study area
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The Oregon Badlands Wilderness Bill is signed into law
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OpEd: Why Congress should classify Badlands as Wilderness
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OpEd - Dirt road through The Badlands must close
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BLM guidelines for Geocaching on public lands
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Deschutes County Commissioners hearing on Badlands Wilderness support
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New pole shows Badlands Wilderness favored by voters
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OHV use curtailed by new USFS policy decisions
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OpEd - We need the Badlands Wilderness
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Senator Wyden tests support of Badlands Wilderness
Badlands Wilderness endorsed by Bend City Commissioners
The Badlands: proposed for Wilderness status
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The Badlands, a brief history
The Badlands pictographs reported 75 year ago

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ONDA's Owyhee wilderness inventory camp near Rome, Oregon
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USFS Mud Bog poster
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President Bush reassures us that SUVs do not damage the environment!
President Bush overlooking the environment
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Fee Demo demonstration in Central Oregon