By Heidi Dahlin, Oregon Chapter Conservation Chair
Amid the stunning backdrop of red rock volcanic formations, 40 desert enthusiasts met up last weekend for the 2011 Oregon Chapter Sierra Club Owyhee Rendezvous in Leslie Gulch, near Jordan Valley and part of the Owyhee Canyonlands. A common statement of attendees was “I’ve lived in Oregon my whole life, and I never knew something like this was in Oregon!” What they were referring to were soaring spires, enormous cathedrals and intricate honeycomb rock formations in hues of red, orange, yellow, green and purple, jutting up from the landscape along narrow gulches, reminiscent of the more well-known rock formations of Utah and Arizona.
This spectacular landscape is part of the Owyhee Canyonlands, an area of approximately 2 million acres for which the Oregon Chapter is working to gain permanent protection. The collection of wilderness study areas and wildlands, under the management of the Bureau of Land Management, is one of the most remote areas in the United States and is important habitat for the Greater Sage Grouse, a species declining in numbers due to habitat loss, as well as pronghorn antelope, golden eagles and pygmy rabbits.
What can you do to help protect this area?
• Sign up to be informed on high desert issues through our list-serve by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
• Visit our website (http://oregon.sierraclub.org/conserv/hidsrt/index.asp) to learn more about the Owyhee Canyonlands campaign.
• Volunteer with the High Desert Committee. Our meetings are the first Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. in the chapter office (1821 SE Ankeny St, Portland, Oregon)
• Write Senator Merkley and ask him to work to permanently protect the Owyhee Canyonlands for both its wild and scenic character and its value as critical habitat for sage grouse. It remains as some of the best and last untrammeled sagebrush steppe in the United States. Contact info: Senator Jeff Merkley, 313 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20510