Agency releases draft for Idaho wilderness areas

BOISE, Idaho — The Bureau of Land Management has released its draft management plan for six wilderness areas and 16 wild and scenic river segments in southwestern Idaho and is seeking public comments.

The Draft Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River Management Plan includes about 518,000 acres and 325 miles of wild and scenic river in Owyhee County. The comment period runs through April 30 for the plan intended to guide management for the next decade.

The six rugged areas became federally protected preserves in 2009, after U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, cobbled together a coalition of ranchers, wilderness advocates, outdoor enthusiasts and others in an effort called the Owyhee Initiative. The sweeping land use package added six wilderness areas and opened other previously off-limits areas to motorized recreation, livestock grazing and other activities. It also provided ranchers with cash and federal land in exchange for giving up private land and giving up grazing rights on some public land.

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

The BLM said it created only one management plan because the six wilderness areas, called the Owyhee Wilderness areas, are near each other, have comparable natural and cultural resources, and have similar management challenges. The 16 wild and scenic river segments are contained almost entirely within the wilderness areas.

According to the BLM’s website, the six wilderness areas are the 50,929-acre Little Jacks Creek Wilderness, the 12,533-acre Pole Creek Wilderness, the 42,413-acre North Fork Owyhee Wilderness, the 267,328-acre Owyhee River Wilderness, the 52,826-acre Big Jacks Creek Wilderness, and the 89,996-acre Bruneau-Jarbidge Rivers Wilderness.

In its release, the BLM noted the wilderness areas have been called “working wilderness” because the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 under which they were created specifically provides for continued livestock grazing in the wilderness areas.

Ranching has been part of the Owyhee Canyonlands for more than a century, the BLM noted.

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