Sparks fly at Owyhee proposal hearing

Sparks fly at Owyhee proposal hearing
Posted at 2:59 PM, May 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-23 17:04:30-04

SALEM, Oregon (AP) -- Sparks flew during a hearing in the state Capitol on a proposal to turn 2.5 million acres of canyonlands in southeastern Oregon into a federally protected monument.

Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe told a panel of state lawmakers on Monday he worried that armed outsiders would exploit the situation. And ranchers said their livelihoods could be threatened.

Environmentalists, on the other hand, predicted degradation of the canyonlands if they aren't given federal protection.

The area is known for its spectacular scenery. It is used by fishermen, rafters, ranchers and others.

Conservationists want President Obama to declare the area a national monument. Opponents say the area is already protected enough by different agencies and laws.

It is unclear to what extent the White House is aware of the proposal.