Agriculture. A way of life that dates back to America’s founding fathers. It is not only a lifestyle that allows people to produce food, it is a lifestyle that allows people to care for the land in such a way that the land is brought to its fullest potential. In Eastern Oregon, some groups seek to designate 2.5 million acres of Oregon land into a national monument. This is a move that would be devastating to the ranchers and community of Malheur county.

Jerome Rosa, executive director for Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, elaborated on why this designation would hurt Oregon Ranchers. “In essence, it could devastate the local economy, their businesses, their culture and their children’s future. The designation would establish additional restrictions that would affect or eliminate their ability to ranch in that area.”

Ranchers who live in the area aren’t fully sure what to expect, but looking at other monument designations, things don’t look good. “I don’t have a clue what will happen,” said past OCA President and current Malheur County rancher Bob Skinner. “They tell you it’s not going to affect ranching, but historically (monument designations) are a disaster.” Skinner said he cannot find anywhere where a monument designation has been a success story for ranching.

He said the designation also brings concern for how future wildfire management through the Range Land Fire Protection Association (RFPA), a group largely made up of local citizens and ranchers, will occur. “We are the front line for fire suppression. If history repeats itself, we suspect RFPA’s won’t be able to access the roads needed to fight wildfires easily,” Skinner said.

Several efforts are in progress to try and stop the monument designation in Malheur County. “OCA is working with local ranching groups, a public relations group, and with state and federal legislatures to prevent the monument designation,” Rosa said.

Meanwhile, those in Malheur County brace themselves for the possibility of a designation that would threaten their way of life. “Cattle is the number one industry in Malheur County,” Skinner said. “If we take a bunch of cattle out of the county, it’s going to devastate its economy. It will have an impact on the state.”

The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association was founded in 1913 and works to promote environmentally and socially sound industry practices, improve and strengthen the economics of the industry, and protect its industry communities and private property rights.

By Kayli Hanley