By Randy Parks
The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (MNWR) is currently in the process of developing a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) that will be used to guide the long term management of wildlife, habitat, public use activities, and cultural resources on the refuge.
Because the CCP must deal with a wide variety of issues, a Refuge Health Collaborative Working Group has been established to provide input to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as to how to deal with the challenges facing the refuge.
The group, made up of representatives from federal and state agencies, environmental groups, landowners, technical personnel, and other community members met on Wednesday, May 19, to begin discussions on what direction they would like to see the CCP take.
The meeting was facilitated by the High Desert Partnership (HDP) and Oregon Consensus, a statewide collaborative governance program at Portland State University.
HDP chairperson Bill Renwick told the group that by bringing the different interests together in a meeting before drafting the CCP, they were trying to anticipate and reduce any tensions before they might arise. “We’re bringing people together to find solutions,” Renwick said.
CCP Project Leader Tim Bodeen said that after receiving public input for the past year, a core team of staff from the MNWR came up with a list of what they felt were driving issues. That list included: 1. Water — aquatic health, such as infrastructure, rights, quality and quantity, climate change, Blitzen River and adjoining creeks; 2. The significance of the MNWR for migratory birds; 3. Partnerships/Collaboration; 4. Terrestrial health.
Following discussions in small groups, the collaborative group as a whole formed a list of issues they felt should be addressed in the CCP. That list included, but was not limited to, helping the refuge manage lands outside the boundaries, haying and grazing, noxious weed management, carp control, elevating partnerships, water rights, flexibility with permittees, predation, visitor services, Blitzen River restoration, significance of birds, maintaining terrestrial species and access to those species.
The list was not prioritized, but many in the room felt haying and grazing on the refuge could be the most contentious issue and should be the lead topic at the next meeting scheduled for July 8 at the Harney County Community Center in Burns.