National monument proposed for area near Painted Hills


SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A new national monument at Sutton Mountain near Central Oregon’s Painted Hills has been proposed by Oregon’s U.S. senators.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports Sutton Mountain stands in the backdrop of the iconic view overlooking the Painted Hills.

The hills themselves are already featured as one of three distinct units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

Oregon Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden on Wednesday announced legislation to protect an even larger area surrounding the Painted Hills as part of a new Sutton Mountain National Monument.

The 66,000-acre monument would include Sutton Mountain itself along with several popular recreation sites like Pats Cabin, Sand Mountain and Priest Hole.

The proposal, which was developed in close collaboration with the Wheeler County community, would create new economic opportunities and provide permanent protections for public lands in the area—not only enhancing the recreational value to the Wheeler community, but also improving wildfire management across the region, the senators said.

“With this legislation, we’ll make sure the public will be able to experience some of Oregon’s most incredible landmarks for generations to come, while also creating jobs and economic opportunities in the county right now,” Merkley said. “I thank local community members for their years of partnership as we’ve worked to develop this proposal, and I will continue to do everything I can to be a strong federal partner and put these plans into action.”

In addition to establishing the Sutton Mountain National Monument, the bill:

  • Authorizes local land exchanges to consolidate public lands ownership in the region and conveys approximately 1,300 acres to the City of Mitchell for public recreation and local development in support of a vibrant economic future for the community and Wheeler County;
  • Protects all land located inside the national monument by permanently withdrawing them from new mining claims;
  • Requires development of a wildfire risk assessment and a comprehensive monument management plan that will include wildfire mitigation and transportation management components;
  • Continues to allow grazing, important to the economy, culture, and heritage of Wheeler County, within the monument.

The legislation is supported by local governments, communities, and stakeholders, including the City of Mitchell, Oregon Natural Desert Association, Conservation Alliance, Pew Charitable Trusts, Conservation Angler, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Oregon Outfitters and Guides Association, and Portland Audubon.

“We are thrilled to see this proposal to protect and conserve Sutton Mountain as one of the jewels of the John Day region,” Ryan Houston, Executive Director of Oregon Natural Desert Association. “We look forward to continuing to work with Senators Merkley and Wyden, as well as the many stakeholders involved, to advance conservation in this important part of Oregon’s high desert.”


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