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. 

  • Sample Letter to IRA Adminstrator DOC

  • In this report, we provide the policy framework for designating ORV trails and areas on federal lands, along with a series of recommendations based on recent case law and ten case studies from the Forest Service, BLM, and National Park Service that demonstrate both agency failures to comply with the executive order minimization criteria and good planning practices that could be incorporated into a model for application of the criteria.
  • Chart of offshore oil well blowout incident rates illustrates the need for stronger federal regulations to improve human safety and decrease environmental risk.