To the Editor:
I am writing in regard to a July 1 meeting hosted in Burns by Scott Campbell regarding his proposed BLM land exchange. As a former resident of Southeast Oregon, I continue to spend a large portion of my free time in both the Steens Mountain and Silvies Valley areas. I traveled nearly four hours to attend the informational meeting.
Mr. Campbell explained that his proposed land exchange could include up to 11,000 acres of our Silvies Valley in exchange for a mere 1,000 acres of his Steens Mountain Property. As a sportsman who has enjoyed outings in both areas, I must say that it would be impossible to create any type of fair land exchange between these two properties. The Silvies Valley property is rich in wildlife, vegetation, water, and camping and outdoor opportunities for all Harney County residents. The Steens property continues to struggle to maintain its deer population, and elk numbers are low to none. Public recreational opportunities on the Steens property would pale in comparison to the lost Silvies Valley property.
This is not to mention that public access points on the Steens property would be considerably farther away from Burns than our current Silvies land.
If the proposed land exchange was to occur, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife would be forced to slash the number of Silvies deer and elk tags given in the public drawing. It's simple supply and demand; there would be fewer public opportunities to hunt, and thus fewer public tags. There is an upside for anyone hoping to purchase a landowner tag from Mr. Campbell for up to $6,000; he would have more up for sale. It might be correct to note that the exchage could create an increase in Steens Mountain tags, but good luck drawing one.
One may ask why the BLM would consider such a ludicrous proposal. The answer is simple. It is because they have little or no say in the matter. There are two types of land exchanges. One type goes through the local BLM office with a number of checks and balances; the other type is literally an act of Congress. In other words, Congress can simply vote to make this exchange a reality without any local checks or balances.
The only way to help stop this land exchange is to stand together as a community and contact our Congressmen. If we do not stand together, our children and grandchildren will have lost this priceless part of Harney County forever.