What Types of Lands and Rivers are Protected?
The landscape within the Owyhee wilderness areas is diverse, ranging from river canyons over a thousand feet deep to vast expanses of sagebrush and grassland plateaus that provide habitat for sage grouse, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, songbirds, raptors, and numerous rare plant species. More than 230,000 acres are upland plateaus and 224,000 acres are classified as low or moderate hills. This high desert, sagebrush steppe habitat is not included in existing designated wilderness in Idaho and is generally underrepresented in the National Wilderness Preservation System.
The river canyons in Owyhee County have been called the largest concentration of sheer-walled volcanic rhyolite and basalt canyons in the western United States. Many of the canyons are more than 1,000 feet deep, nearly twice as deep as the Washington Monument is tall. River enthusiasts come from around the country to challenge famous whitewater rapids.
How does Wilderness designation in the Owyhees impact access to public lands?
In addition to the 517,000 acres of Wilderness and 325 miles of Wild and Scenic, the legislation authorized acquisition of seven public rights-of-way across private land. These rights-of-way provide access to significant federal land that were previously difficult to reach because they were surrounded by private parcels.
The legislation also directed the BLM to develop and implement transportation plans for public lands outside wilderness areas. The plans establish a system of designated roads and trails and limit motorized and mechanized vehicles to designated routes.