Owyhee Canyonlands

In Southwest Idaho's Owyhee Canyonlands, greater sage-grouse and bighorn sheep roam a landscape of basalt canyons and untamed rivers. This is Idaho’s sagebrush country, one of America’s great untamed wildlands and outdoor recreation treasures.

The Owyhee Canyonlands is one of America’s great untamed wildlands and outdoor recreation spots—and we must be vigilant to ensure it remains wild and protected from threats like irresponsible off-road vehicle us and uncharacteristic wild fires.

In 2009, years of work by The Wilderness Society and local leaders and residents in Owyhee County came to fruition as 517,000 acres in the region were designated as wilderness. However, federal management plans that guarantee these wilderness areas are protected still need to be developed and implemented. The high desert landscape is particularly vulnerable to the expected effects of climate change, and land management decisions need to address strategies to reduce invasive weed growth and protect sage grouse populations. 


Work we are doing

High desert landscape in the Owyhees. Credit: Bill Williams, flickr.

Stewardship of the Owyhee Canyonlands

In addition to the wilderness designated in the Owyhee Canyonlands in 2009,  The Wilderness Society is working on plans that affect the role of fire in this desert landscape, and the recovery and stewardship of wildlife populations such as sage grouse and bighorn sheep.

We are also working with those who have small, private ownership of land within Owyhee wilderness areas and are willing to sell those inholdings so that they can be  incorporated into the publicly owned wildlands.

The Wilderness Society will work with land managers in the Owyhee Canyonlands to develop specific plans to manage off-road vehicle use throughout the non-wilderness lands in Owyhee County. Irresponsible off-road vehicle travel cuts deep, lasting ruts in this fragile landscape, leading to erosion and the introduction of invasive exotic weeds that crowd out critical wildlife forage. 


Our partners

Even since wilderness was protected in the Owyhee Canyonlands in 2009, The Wilderness Society has continued to work with diverse partners to make sure the land receives the care it deserves. These have included, local government officials, ranchers, sportsmen, backcountry horseman, outfitters, and many others. 

  • Anastasia Greene

    On Monday, September 26, the Colorado Bureau of Land Management state office announced that it will be pursuing a master leasing plan in Southwest Colorado. The statement comes after the agency engaged in an unprecedented public outreach campaign that consisted of a series of public meetings and the formation of a public working group that resulted in the submission of hundreds of comments to the local Tres Rios field office.

  • Michael Reinemer

    Today the House of Representatives approved H.R. 845, the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act by Representatives Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Tim Walz (D-MN). The legislation would keep more trails across the nation open and accessible by expanding the use of volunteer and partner organizations and providing increased focus on a handful of priority areas around the country.

  • Michael Reinemer

    With very few legislative days left in the 114th Congress, this bill has no chance of being adopted and would do too little to protect wild, cultural and historic lands, including the critically important Bears Ears area.