GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 189-5
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM-6:30 PM


CASTONGUAY, Sammy, Programs, Friends of the Owyhee, 790 SW 3rd Avenue, Ontario, OR 97914

The Owyhee Volcanic Plateau of southeastern Oregon, southwestern Idaho, and north-central Nevada is a hotspot for geologic diversity. The vast 7 million acre watershed of the Owyhee River and tributaries cut through silicic domes and calderas active during the early lithospheric interactions of the Yellowstone Plume, but also includes Paleozoic sedimentary sections, Holocene (?) lava fields, and Mesozoic era granites of the Idaho Batholith. The Owyhee Dam was the prototype to the Hoover and holds a 40-mile reservoir that irrigates 118,000 acres in the Treasure Valley. Rough roads and far from population, the Owyhee is not well visited but the growth to the Boise Metro area is a threat to undermanaged public lands. The Oregon side of the Owyhee is largely unprotected, except a patch work of Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic River corridors, and some State land. The Friends of the Owyhee is a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting locals to the landscape while teaching outdoor ethics, general naturalist topics, geologic history, and promoting the protection of this geodiversity hotspot.

We celebrate the geologic past with informal educational trips: our annual “Geology of Succor Creek” trip, the new nine-part “Owyhee Geology Series”, and leading the “Thunderegg Days” rockhound field trip. In two short years as an official nonprofit, we have directly engaged over 1000 people in informal geoscience education and nearly half of those are youth experiencing geology for the first time. We aim to cultivate a place-based connection between our community and the Owyhee, as its waters are the economic driver of the region. We work to protect our future by adopting parks, highways, and the river to keep it litter-free, while working closely with elected officials to encourage federal protections, such as Oregon Senators Wyden and Merkly proposed “Malheur Community Empowerment of the Owyhee Act”.

In the pursuit of protecting our Geoheritage, it is essential that geologists engage in informal geoscience education, become conservation advocates, and support groups doing the work.