Owyhee initiative helps protect the Owyhee Canyonlands and the Idahoans who use it

Posted at 8:09 PM, May 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-03 22:09:46-04

OWHYEE COUNTY — The Owyhee County Commissioners brought everybody to the table many years ago to come up with a solution to protect the rugged terrain of the Owyhee River while also protecting the livelihood of the people who depend on it.

From there the Owyhee initiative was developed and ten years ago they spurred Congress to protect 517,000 acres of wilderness and 316 miles of rivers under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

For John Robison of the Idaho Conservation League it means protecting the natural vegetation and habitat like the sage grouse and big horn sheep.

"These wild and scenic rivers are amazing with entrenched canyons and if you love rivers this is one of the best river floats you can do in the world," said Robison.

Nobody knows that better than Idaho outfitter and guide Grant Simonds who depends on public access to these rivers to make a living.

Even though access means a hard to travel dirt road, Simonds told us people have access to the river, but not too much access to the point that the Owyhee River would lose its ruggedness that makes it so unique.

"Once you are down there you gain a true appreciation for these Owyhee Canyonlands," said Simonds. "You can enjoy it either by land or on the river."

Then there is Chris Black who's family has been ranching in Owyhee County for 130 years and despite all the protections the Owyhee initiative also made sure ranchers have administrative access to the land.

"We can maintain those reservoirs, maintain fences and put salt out if we need to," said Black. "Most of Owyhee County is made up of ranching."

These three people showcase how people in Idaho with different backgrounds can come together to find common ground.

Check out the video of our Ecoflight above the Owyhee Canyonlands, Ecoflight is a non-profit organization who flies interested parties over land all over the west.