By Jim Akenson, OHA Sr. Conservation Director
Senators Wyden and Merkley have crafted a bill that could resolve the long-standing issue of wilderness designation within the Owyhee Canyonlands. This proposal would establish 1.1 million acres of wilderness on BLM lands, while releasing a roughly equal acreage from current wilderness study protection.
There are many concessions and compromises in this 71-page bill. Settling this public land management plan in this arid region has been challenging for decades. The bill proponents have engaged both local citizens and diverse stakeholders in formulating this proposal, which offers some unique provisions to maintain grazing, access, and scenic quality.
From a hunting perspective, OHA and other sportsmen partners are still reviewing and providing input on the wildlife habitat improvement aspect for many species, ranging from water guzzler maintenance to invasive weed control. We also have aired concern about bighorn sheep health and ensuring separation between bighorns and domestic sheep.
OHA participated in a sportsmen’s group meeting with Wyden’s staff to express our points of concern and to gain a better understanding of this proposal.