I am grateful for so many things but sometimes I think I just take it all for granted.
One of the things aside from family and friends I miss most about Harney County is the ability to drive 5 miles and never see another soul. To hear nothing but the wind rustling through the trees and the creaking sound they make. How a drive in the forest can present you with deer, elk, the occasional skunk, snake or whatever other animal you run across (although I can do without the snake).
I went on a 10 mile hike this morning and what kept going through my head was how thankful I was, in this big city, to have a place that was peaceful and quiet, where I could go almost the entire hike in solitude. Knowing without government, county or city these places in Portland would not exist. If they were to be turned over to private owners they would cease to exist and in there place would be over priced developments with atrocious houses that 97% of the people could never afford.
Mt. Tabor, Mt Talbert, Tryon Park and Powell Butte are a few mountains within the city of Portland and outlying areas that remain pristine. Where anyone can go and hike, walk, ride their bikes or horses. Where they can take their children for a picnic, where we can get lost in our thoughts on a trail because in this bustling hectic city there is a space that is quiet and tranquil.
And then my head went to how terribly sad it would be if the refuge became private property, if the Steens was turned over to private owners. The reality is, contrary to what those who have invaded the town think, if you take those lands and give them to private owners they will become just that…private.
They are not going to allow Joe Blow stranger to camp on their lands, to fish or hunt it. They may let a few friends they know access it but they will fence it and for the most part people will no longer have access. Who will pay for the roads to be maintained, who will pay and keep up the camp sites if not for the BLM or Forest Service. Who will pick the trash left behind. Yes changes need to be made but thinking that taking the government out is the solution makes no sense.
Not sure if this makes sense or is appropriate for this forum, but having spent 40 years in Burns and then moving to the city, I miss being able to drive in the woods and forest, having roads that are decent enough for a car to drive on. I miss the quiet, not having to worry if I am on someones land that I should not be on. I miss driving out to the refuge and seeing how wonderful it is out there. Driving the center patrol roads and seeing geese, ducks, birds I cannot even tell you what they are. I spent several summers when my kids were growing up taking my little car, them and the dog and taking random forest service roads and ending up who knows where but knowing eventually they all lead back to the highway!!! We ended up in John Day, Drewsey, Prineville among a few, just by taking maintained roads through the woods!
In October my daughter and I drove the entire loop of the Steens. We looked over Kiger Gorge, we hiked to the top of the summit, we had a little picnic on the other side looking out over the vast, beautiful expanse. We drove to the round barn, we had one of the best days of my life. I forgot how utterly beautiful it is up there. I had not been on the Steens in over 34 years. We met and talked to amazing people from all over the world who traveled to this beautiful place because it is open to the public.
I pray that the turmoil ends soon, that the damage done can be minimized. I pray that the refuge is given back to the people of Harney County, that this spring and summer they will be able to enjoy it and not fear driving out there. I pray it never becomes someone elses private land… My heart and prayers are with you all. I am angry and sad and disgruntled but this forum and you in it are helping me to let some of that go and see it from others perspectives…