Owyhee Land acquisitions keep promise of historic agreement
Mon, Oct 25 2010 at 12:10 PM
By The Nature Conservancy
Boise, Idaho — August 26, 2010 — The Wilderness Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy have announced the acquisition of two properties in Owyhee County both in newly designated wilderness located adjacent to the Owyhee Backcountry Byway. Both property acquisitions will offer scenic desert canyons to public access and recreation.
The acquisitions are part of the on-going implementation of the Owyhee Initiative, a historic collaboration by local ranchers, Owyhee County, the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, conservation groups and recreationists.
Today, the Wilderness Land Trust acquired a 611-acre property located on the North Fork of the Owyhee River, owned by long-time Owyhee rancher Mike Hanley.
The property will be transferred to the Bureau of Land Management to become part of the North Fork Owyhee Wilderness. It is located along the largest canyon that intersects the Owyhee Backcountry Byway, on Juniper Mountain Road. It is also adjacent to the only developed campground on the byway. The property offers spectacular rugged canyon scenery in the heart of the Owyhees and over a mile of the North Fork Owyhee River for fishing, hiking and habitat protection.
"The Owyhee Cattlemen Association, Owyhee County Commissioners and conservation interests have long emphasized the principal of multiple use on public lands within our county," says landowner Mike Hanley. “The Owyhee Initiative has ushered in a new era which will serve as a template to settle other wilderness issues throughout the West."
These two land purchases, totaling 971 acres, are the first in a series of acquisitions of private land inholdings and properties adjacent to wilderness areas, made possible by the Owyhee Public Lands Management Act of 2009. Last year’s legislation specified that lands acquired within wilderness or adjacent to wilderness would become part of the designated wilderness.
The properties will be transferred to the Bureau of Land Management and included in the wilderness areas, created last year as part of federal legislation that designated more than 500,000 acres in Owyhee County. Both properties will be open to the public once they are transferred to the BLM from The Wilderness Land Trust.
All inholding acquisitions made possible by the Owyhee legislation are strictly voluntary, on a willing seller basis.
The other acquisition is in the newly created Little Jacks Creek Wilderness, located just off Mud Flat Road. This property serves as a gateway to Shoofly Canyon, with many excellent hiking and non-motorized wilderness recreation opportunities. It also provides important access to the wilderness, so that people can enjoy the wide-open vistas, stunning canyons and abundant wildlife of the Little Jacks Creek Wilderness.
The legislation that made this transaction possible was the result of eight years of work by the Owyhee Initiative.
"This is an important first step in achieving the greater goal for the completion of the wilderness in the Owyhees," says David Kirk, Lands Specialist for the land trust. "The partners in the Owyhee Initiative believed this unique area deserved wilderness protection, and now that effort is being secured by the purchase of these strategically located parcels. I highly recommend a peaceful walk in one of these new wilderness areas. It’s like stepping back into a landscape that the first pioneers must have experienced."
MNN is working with The Nature Conservancy to bring you state-by-state environmental information.