Letters From the West

BLM releases draft Owyhee wilderness plan

The Bureau of Land Management released it draft management plan for the Owyhee Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers.

The plan for six wilderness areas totaling 518,000 acres and 16 Wild and Scenic River segments totaling 325 miles is the agency’s proposal for putting into place the center piece of the Owyhee Initiative. The initiative was designed to protect wilderness and ranchers in Owyhee County and ended up with legislation that included a science review plan, opportunities for ranchers to sell ranches and make land trades along with the wilderness and Wild River designations.

A Kayaker on the East Fork of the Owyhee River in the Owyhee Wilderness

A Kayaker on the East Fork of the Owyhee River in the Owyhee Wilderness

Local ranchers; county representatives, environmental groups, outfitters, the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe and others working on the ideas that became law in 2009.

But the wilderness proposals were unique because many of the areas spelled out ways that ranchers would be allowed to continue fences, motorized use and other activities they needed to continue operating. This “working wilderness” is designed to allow ranching to continue on the landscape where it has been for more than a century.

“I look forward to implementing a plan that embraces the visions of such a collaborative effort,” said BLM Boise District Manager Jim Fincher.

You can read the wilderness plan  on line. Comments will be accepted through April 30.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West