For half a decade I’ve been honored to call Oregon home. When I’m not diving deep into my corporate giving role at KEEN Footwear, you can bet I am running, camping, fishing or climbing among the sage and juniper in the state’s high desert. And to me, the Owyhee Canyonlands is perhaps the most magical.
Oregon is exceptional, with great outdoor recreation opportunities, varying landscapes, and wonderful, proud residents and communities. As a member of the outdoor industry, I’ve witnessed communities near permanently protected public lands see significant, sustained positive economic results from increases to tourism, gear shopping, permits, and a whole bunch more.
Protecting the Owyhee Canyonlands could offer that positive boost. It’s also the right thing to do, ensuring our children, and their children, can escape into the Owyhee to feel the solitude, smell the sage and watch the Milky Way dance in this vast desert sky.
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I still recall the solace I found when I hooked a fish for the first time. The river basically saved my life – it was a sign to me to connect with the outdoors and to work to ensure that all people had access to our special wild rivers and lands.
Out of this healing experience, I became determined to bring inner city youth and veterans into the outdoors. While they share similar troubles, they have one important thing in common: the healing power of wild places. I founded the nonprofit Soul River Inc., through which I run outdoor educational trips to help at-risk youth and fellow veterans, and inspire new ambassadors of nature. Connecting with nature is a powerful outlet to reduce stress, find focus, sharpen self-awareness, embrace spirituality, and develop positive values beneficial to both the individual and community.
Getting outdoors onto protected, public lands inspires hope in our youth, our vets, and all of us. We need to protect the Owyhee River and surrounding Canyonlands for generations of today and tomorrow.
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I moved to Oregon two decades ago, drawn in part by its astounding natural areas. I had the opportunity to live all over the state – Klamath Falls, Union, Blue River – before settling down in Portland. And very early on, I hiked, camped and explored in the Owyhee Canyonlands.
The Owyhee today feels like it’s escaped the heavy hand of man. Its craggy canyon formations, huge horizons and sheer remoteness are like nothing else in Oregon. Yet history shows over and over that the qualities we all cherish will erode if we don’t decide together what future we want for these public lands.
The Owyhee Canyonlands is a delicate desert environment. Let’s have the foresight to protect it today. I have no doubt that future generations will thank us.
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I grew up in Mexico amidst the saguaro cactus of the Baja Peninsula. My parents decided it was time to move to the U.S. when I was 11, choosing the green of southern Oregon as our new home. The wide-open and wild places that Oregon’s public lands offer, both in our backyard and across the state, are one of the many reasons that I continue to call Oregon my home.
To me, to protect the Owyhee Canyonlands is to preserve one of the wildest places we have remaining, a place where God’s creation is still intact. We could cede the Owyhee to mining or oil and gas development, but what we would gain from such short-term development is much less than what we gain by passing the area down unblemished to our children and grandchildren. These vast public lands are our legacy. Let’s act now so that we don’t squander it.