Land Acquisition protects headwaters in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest

Ken Sandusky
Malheur National Forest, U.S. Forest Service
August 7th, 2014 at 1:45PM

On July 10, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Malheur National Forest celebrated one of the largest land acquisitions in the history of the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service.

This acquisition of 13,085 acres will consolidate protection of the headwaters of the John Day River, which drain from the Strawberry Mountains. The new land will fill in the gaps of what was a checkerboard arrangement around the headwaters, creating a protected area which now stretches more than 20,000 acres. Along with hunters and other recreationists, several species of wildlife and fish will benefit from this crucial linkage with existing public lands and established wildlife corridors. The river itself is home to endangered bull trout, as well as redband rainbow trout. It is also the destination for spawning mid-Columbia steelhead and chinook. Elk, deer, black bear, pronghorn, mountain goats, grouse and quail also make their home on the land surrounding the headwaters.

Acquiring these lands is the culmination of a lot of hard work by many people. The Malheur National Forest is especially grateful for the work of the foundation and the organization’s Oregon and Washington Lands Program Manager Bill Richardson, as well as to the D.R. Johnson Family. This area holds deep value for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy the remote and wild setting and unique geologic views. The checkerboard of former in-holdings will now never be parceled off and sold for home and cabin development as had been predicted. Private lands once available to only a few will now be available for the enjoyment of all Americans.

Now that the lands are under Forest Service management, it is time for the Malheur National Forest to engage with the community and forest partners about how these new lands should be managed. There is great interest in providing local citizens and other forest users a variety of recreational opportunities in these headwaters.

Partnerships, such as this one, continue to be a key factor in accomplishing the Forest Service mission of caring for the land and serving people. Partners are integral to accomplishing critical resource management and help the Malheur National Forest leverage many thousands of dollars to get work done.

“We are excited for this opportunity and happy that these new public lands will add greatly to opportunities for recreation, scenery, wildlife and fisheries in the headwaters of the John Day River,” said Malheur National Forest Supervisor Teresa Raaf.