(Salem, OR—June 11, 2010) After two years of secret negotiations, the Vale district of the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) and environmental group ONDA, filed a settlement in the ONDA v. BLM case with the 9th Circuit on Thursday, June 10, 2010.

“The BLM told us they could no longer designate wilderness areas and that the settlement would have no impact on grazing permits,” said Bob Skinner, an affected rancher from Jordan Valley. “The settlement says the exact opposite.”

Ranchers in the Lakeview BLM district are also affected by the settlement. It settles a case that the Lakeview BLM district won in Oregon district court in 2007. The Lakeview case might have been overturned by the 9th Circuit on appeal, though, according to Dunn Carney attorney, Elizabeth Howard.

While Lakeview ranchers were able to see the settlement before it was finalized, they were not allowed to negotiate its terms, according to John O’Keeffe, a rancher involved in the process. Skinner, who is in the Vale district, didn’t get to see the settlement at all, he said.

According to O’Keeffe, the settlement poses many concerns for ranchers, including an agreement that the BLM will propose to amend land management plans to require retirement of grazing permits and leases. The settlement also requires the BLM to manage areas as wilderness regardless of whether the area has been designated as wilderness or a wilderness study area. Howard, the ranchers’ attorney, indicated her concern that the settlement is vague in parts, and BLM may have wrongly delegated its authority to determine that an area has wilderness characteristics to ONDA.

“Ranchers have the opportunity to comment on BLM’s management plans (according to the BLM press release), but we don’t expect that our comments will have any impact on the provisions of the settlement agreement,” said O’Keefe and Skinner on Wednesday (June 9) evening at a watershed council meeting. Skinner added that in his opinion, the BLM appeared to be promoting ONDA.

The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) was formed in 1913 in Baker County by 12 individuals who sought to advance the economic, political and social interests of the Oregon Cattle Industry. OCA’s mission is 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. For more information, visit OCA’s Web site at www.orcattle.com.

For additional information, contact:
John O’Keeffe, 541-219-1111
Bob Skinner, 541-586-2282