President Obama today signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, a package of 160 bills that included Idaho Senator Mike Crapo’s Owyhee Initiative bill.
Passage of this bill marks the culmination of eight years of collaborative work by the Owyhee Initiative Work Group, which included Idaho Rivers United, other conservation groups, recreationists, ranchers, tribes and county officials.
Key provisions of the Owyhee bill include:
- Designation of 316 miles of federally protected Wild & Scenic Rivers.
- Designation of some 517,000 acres of federal Wilderness.
- Protection of tribal cultural resources.
- And, measures designed to promote economic stability and protect the way of life enjoyed by Owyhee Countys ranching community.
Among the rivers protected for future generations by this bill are the Bruneau, Jarbidge, Big Jacks and Little Jacks Creeks and the East Fork Owyhee and parts of key tributaries like Deep Creek, Battle Creek and Dickshooter Creek. Portions of the North Fork and South Fork Owyhee will also be protected.
These rivers include the largest concentrations of sheer-walled rhyolite/basalt canyon systems in the U.S. They are also home to diverse fish and wildlife, including the worlds largest population of California bighorn sheep, sage grouse and red band trout.
This is a great day for the rivers of the Owyhee Canyonlands and for the people of Idaho Rivers United, said IRU board president Andy Munter of Ketchum. These designations will keep some of Idahos most spectacular rivers free of dams and protected forever.
IRU Executive Director Bill Sedivy said the river designations are a critical component of the Canyonland protection package.
In our view, the proposed river designations are critical to the long-term ecological health of this region, Sedivy said. In this dry, desert landscape, rivers mean life. Wild & Scenic designations will protect flows, fish and wildlife habitat and other outstanding values in the river corridors for generations to come.
These protection are long overdue, but I cant think of any other rivers and streams in the U.S. that are more deserving of Wild & Scenic protection. I appreciate the all the hard work of the Owyhee Initiative participants over the last seven years, and Sen. Mike Crapo and his staff who got it done in Congress.