Badlands wilderness backers cite poll support

PORTLAND – A new poll by Grove Insight shows a strong majority of Deschutes County voters favor the creation of a Badlands Wilderness Area in Central Oregon, supporters said Friday.

After explaining the proposal in a format that describes restrictions placed upon the land as a result of passage of a wilderness designation, 57 percent of voters favored the proposal, while less than three in 10 (29 percent) were opposed. With a 28 percentage point margin in favor, this designation is clearly something Deschutes County residents want, supporters said.

Located 20 miles east of Bend, the Badlands area is a 37,000-acre High Desert gem notable for its prolific desert wildflowers, dry river canyons, castle-like lava formations, ancient juniper trees and pictographs.

With Bend’s booming population and encroaching development, this wondrous place has become prone to illegal garbage dumping, pictograph defacement, and old-growth juniper theft.

Backers say the Badlands needs wilderness designation to help thwart these illegal activities and ensure protection of its valuable resources for future generations. The Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) and other concerned citizens have been promoting wilderness designation for the Badlands for over two decades.

This latest poll shows a marked increase in local support and decline in opposition over the past two years. A similar poll, conducted in 2002, showed that 54 percent of voters approved the creation of a Badlands Wilderness Area, while only 35 percent were opposed.

The proposed Badlands Wilderness has also received endorsements by a coalition of Bend-based businesses, ranchers, conservationists, the Oregon Hunters Association, the Bend City Council, and the Central Oregon Trail Alliance, the local mountain biking club.

“We are encouraged to see that support for the Badlands has increased since our last poll two years ago,” said Bill Marlett, Executive Director of ONDA. “With over 100 business owners in Central Oregon and elsewhere, coupled with overwhelming grassroots support, it seems our delegation should move forward with legislation.”

Only Congress can designate wilderness. It has been almost four years since the passage of the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act, legislation which set aside 175,000 acres of wilderness.

Steens Mountain is currently the only area in Oregon’s High Desert that receives such protection. With such overwhelming local support, supporters say the Badlands, which represents some of the last, best remaining wilderness in the Bend area, should be designated Oregon’s next wilderness area.

“At this point in time, and with this level of local support, there really is no reason why Representative Walden and Senator Wyden can’t step up to the plate and make this happen,” stated Marlett.

Official poll results can be found at ONDA’s web site:
http://www.onda.org/badlands .