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. 

  • Michael Reinemer

    Statement on Interior Department recommendation on Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, July 21, 2017

    The following statement is from Scott Miller, Southwest Senior Regional Director for the Wilderness Society:

  • Tim Woody

    By passing H.R. 218 today, the U.S. House of Representatives set a dangerous precedent, approving construction of a destructive, unnecessary road through protected wilderness in the vital Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in the Alaska Peninsula.  

    This bill undermines bedrock conservation laws including the 1964 Wilderness Act, which prevents road building in designated wilderness, and the National Environmental Policy Act, which guarantees a process for environmental review of federal decisions, including participation by citizens and other stakeholders. 

  • Alex Thompson

    Today the U.S. Senate held a procedural vote for Interior’s deputy secretary nomination of David Bernhardt.

    The former California lobbyist and high-ranking staffer at Interior under President George W. Bush has a longstanding history with oil and gas companies, having pushed for the removal of impediments to drilling in land use plans and advancing energy development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

    The Wilderness Society issued the following statement from Melyssa Watson, vice president for conservation: