A proposal to transfer four miles of private lands to public ownership along the John Day River on and around the former Rajneesh Ranch took another step forward this week.
After stalling on several previous attempts, Congress re-opened discussion on the Cathedral Rock – Horse Heaven Wilderness proposal. The Senate subcommittee on public lands and forests took testimony Wednesday on three wilderness bills including the John Day proposal, which encompasses some 17,000 acres near and adjacent to the river. The proposal, which has been brokered in large part by the Bend-based Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), is underpinned by several land transfer deals involving the Young Life Church, which operates a Christian youth camp, on the former Rajneesh Ranch outside of Antelope, and several other area landowners. The deal would allow Young Life and the other private property owners to consolidate some of their holdings that are interspersed with federal lands controlled by the Bureau of Land Management.
In exchange, the private landowners would transfer some of their high value riverfront and upland property to the BLM. That land could be used to develop additional camping opportunities for boaters, as well as providing hiking and recreational opportunities, including at the two proposed wilderness areas at Horse Heaven and Cathedral Rock.
Congress isn’t the only one seeking input on the lower John Day. The state of Oregon is also soliciting comments on the development of its newly acquired park at Cottonwood Canyon. The park was donated to the state by the Western Rivers Conservancy after the organization purchased 16 miles of riverfront on the river’s lower stretch. The state recently released a draft plan for the new park and is taking feedback on proposal until May 24. To see a copy of the plan, visit the state’s Cottonwood Canyon website, http://cottonwoodcanyon.wordpress.com/