PRINEVILLE, OR -- Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) met with Crook County residents Monday, to discuss a proposal by a conservation group that would change how a large part of the Ochoco National Forest is managed. Oregon Wild would like to see it designated a National Recreation Area.
Walden opposes the plan, as did the majority of those at the meeting. He tells KBND News, "It seems like these [conservation] groups are just trying to restrict access to public land, what we can do on that public land, so they get everyone off the public land. And there are people who, for generations have hunted there, worked there, hiked there, camped there, feel like they’re just being not listened to, shoved aside; and once again, a group and the government are going to take another piece of federal ground away from them."
He says nearly everyone he's heard from is worried the change could bring increased regulation and decreased access. "Now people feel we just don't manage these forests, we just let them burn. You see these enormous wildfires, and people can’t access their traditional areas that they used to access, and the threat just seems to build." But, he says, he doesn't think it'll make it past the idea stage. "The Oregon Wild proposal would have to pass congress, and I don't see that happening anytime soon."
He says the only people at the Prineville meeting in support of the plan were those representing Oregon Wild
. Afterwards, Walden drew parallels between the frustration in Crook County and the issues that lead to the refuge takeover outside of Burns. "It’s part of the same theme. There are these groups that make a lot of money by creating this next new thing they have to go preserve and save and it’s who they work for and it’s how they do it. And for some, it's their cause in life; that’s they’re view of how it should happen. I respect all that. But, for most people in these rural communities, they just feel like their way of life is being threatened."
Photo courtesy Greg Walden Instagram