EO Media Group file photo
You have to hand it to U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer. He’s not afraid to take a stand, especially when the issue will have zero impact on his district and when the victims will be hundreds of miles away.
The Portland Democrat sent a letter to President Barack Obama recently urging him to use the Antiquities Act to establish the 2.5 million-acre Owyhee National Monument.
The law allows a president to unilaterally designate a national monument, which forbids multiple use of the land. The act is often used by lame ducks to shove such designations down the throats of local residents and curry favor with environmental groups.
The distance from Portland to the proposed monument: 368 miles.
“A growing statewide coalition of local citizens, businesses, conservation organizations, recreational interests, sportsmen, and other diverse partners support permanent protection of the Owyhee Canyonlands,” Blumenauer wrote to Obama.
But, he wrote, “there are some local interests who are opposed to such a designation.”
The “local interests” are Malheur County residents, including ranchers and others who for generations have depended on the canyonlands area to graze cattle. They fear grazing and other economic activities would ultimately be banned if the monument were designated. That would most likely put them out of business.
Last spring, 90 percent of Malheur County voters opposed the monument proposal in a county-wide advisory vote.
In essence, Blumenauer is telling rural Oregonians that their opinion doesn’t matter, and neither do their businesses, many of which have been in Malheur County since long before he and his Portland friends ever heard of it.
There is a lot of talk these days about the urban-rural divide, about how urban folks lack an understanding of rural areas. These same people say rural residents need to understand the needs of urban folks.
But when it comes right down to it, urban residents say they have the votes, and whether rural residents agree or not, that’s tough. That’s Blumenauer’s stand, and the stand of others who want the canyonlands “protected” from the generations of Oregonians who have ranched there.
Blumenauer, in his support for the Owyhee National Monument, just made the urban-rural divide wider. He demonstrated — again — that the wants of Portland’s elites outweigh the needs of rural Oregonians.
The next time you hear folks talk about the need for urban and rural Oregonians to listen to one another, remember that, on issues such as this, urbanites only seem to hear what they want.
Blumenauer mentions the possibility of a “win-win” solution for all communities in Malheur County should the area be set aside as a playland for hikers and campers.
What he really means is “We win, you lose.”