I was born and raised here in the Pacific Northwest and even went to rocket launches in eastern Oregon. Still, I somehow had never heard of the Owyhee region until I started working with Wildhorse Picture Jasper, which comes from the Owyhee mountains on the border of Idaho and Oregon.
While picture jaspers can come in a wide range of colors, Wildhorse Picture Jasper tends to incorporate far more blues and greys than the standard picture jasper that tends primarily towards yellows and browns.
My current pieces that use Wildhorse Picture Jasper include this 18 bead Wildhorse Picture Jasper adjustable wrist mala.
And the Wildhorse Picture Jasper and Sibucao redwood stretchy bracelet. This jasper’s beautiful mix of subtle warm and cool colors is one of my favorite aspects of Wildhorse Picture Jasper.
Before I even saw the stone, I was attracted to the fact that it is mined in North America. While mining is by its nature a destructive process, I tend towards using North American stones because the US does at least have stricter environmental regulations than most developing countries and most US semi-precious gemstone mining does not occur in environmentally sensitive regions.
Semi-precious gemstone mining for stones like jasper also tends to be quite different from the mining of precious metals and gemstones. Most semi-precious stones that are not by-products of other mining operations are mined in small quantity using lower impact methods by small local mining operations or individuals.
My main objective with my jewelry is to share natural beauty while preserving that natural beauty in nature. I greatly enjoy creating with Wildhorse Picture Jasper and supporting small mines in the Pacific Northwest, but I also want to assure that the beauty of Owyhee is preserved.
Many environmental groups have been working to protect the Owyhee Canyonlands in eastern Oregon, which is the largest unprotected, undeveloped area remaining in the contiguous US. But there has been local resistance to protecting the area, including the occupation in Malheur County earlier this year.
It’s safe to say that cattle ranchers and I don’t agree on much, and this is no exception, but whether or not we understand each other, the area being declared a national monument doesn’t necessarily mean that ranchers can’t continue using traditional grazing lands while the land would be given protection against future destructive ventures, including large scale mining.
Wildlands are a quickly disappearing treasure that belongs to everyone on this planet, and can never truly be replaced once destroyed. While there’s currently no hope of getting the Owyhee Canyonlands designated as a national park (a designation that would have to be approved by congress), there is the possibility of President Barack Obama declaring 2.5 million acres of the Owyhee Canyonlands a national monument through the Antiquities Act.
Presidents declaring national monuments via the Antiquities Act has been a disputed issue since its inception. Objections related to it have been taken all the way to the Supreme Court in the case of the Grand Canyon (Cameron v. United States), which found protection under President Theodore Roosevelt’s deceleration of national monument before later being converted to a national park under President Woodrow Wilson.
As President Theodore Roosevelt said, “You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”
If you live in Oregon, the Oregan Natural Desert Association is currently running the campaign Take Action for the Owyhee Canyonlands and have information to help you contact your local representatives and encourage them to support protection of the land.
For those outside of Oregon, you can read more about the area and sign the petition at the Owyee Cayonlands website. Keen Footwear, an Oregon-based company that has been leading a campaign to encourage the president to declare the Owyee Canyonlands a national monument, also has a petition at their website.