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. 

  • Alex Thompson

    Today, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management announced a new methane waste rule to replace its own regulations that went into effect only about one year ago. The new rule eliminates important environmental and public health protections established under the 2016 rule and will result in increased natural gas waste and reduced taxpayer revenue.

    The following statement is from Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society:

  • Michael Reinemer

    President Trump’s infrastructure and budget proposals are essentially Valentine’s gifts to oil, gas, coal and other extractive interests.

    The plans would increase fossil fuel development on public lands, weaken environmental safeguards, drain funds from conservation programs and even allow selling off public lands to pay for infrastructure.

    Jamie Williams, President of The Wilderness Society, said:

  • Michael Reinemer

    Public lands and environmental protections would be steamrolled under President Trump’s proposed infrastructure plan according to The Wilderness Society’s review of leaked White House documents.  His proposed fiscal year 2019 budget would likely further hobble budgets of federal land management agencies and choke vital programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Both are expected to be released on February 12.

    Drew McConville, Senior Managing Director at The Wilderness Society, said: