March 07, 2007

COLLABORATIVE OWYHEE INITIATIVE BILL REINTRODUCED

County, Tribal, conservation leaders in D.C. to promote Crapo legislation

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo is reintroducing his Owyhee Initiative Implementation Act today amidst meetings in Washington, DC with leaders from Owyhee County, the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, conservation groups and federal management agencies. Crapo says the Owyhee Initiative process remains a model for resolving controversial land management issues in Idaho and around the nation."The Owyhee Initiative should succeed because the cost of doing nothing, of maintaining the status quo, is unacceptable and irreversible," Crapo said. "The Owyhee Canyonlands and its inhabitants deserve to have a process of conflict management and a path to sustainability. The need for this path forward is particularly acute given that this area is an hour's drive from one of the nation's most rapidly-growing population centers. The Owyhee Initiative protects water rights, releases wilderness study areas and protects traditional uses."Crapo said he was particularly pleased to be joined in today's reintroduction announcement by members of the Owyhee County Board of Commissioners, representatives from the Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club and several leaders from the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, whose homeland straddles the Idaho-Nevada border. Kyle Prior, Chairman of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, says passing the Owyhee legislation is critical to preserving Tribal culture in Owyhee County. "This legislation is very important to the cultural resources for the Tribes as we are the ones who have kept the history of the land and have an understanding of it," Prior said. "Through this measure, we will be able to protect our tribal culture and heritage in ways that those who do not have the same background would not be able to do. It has been a great experience to be part of the Work Group and help to put together legislation that will have such long-lasting effects on our lands and people."The Owyhee Initiative is the product of nearly six years of collaboration by a large work group comprised of county leaders, off-road users, sportsmen, conservation groups, ranchers, the U.S. Air Force, Shoshone-Paiute Tribes and others. The Act establishes a board of directors to assist with land management decisions and utilizes a scientific review process. Seventy-three percent of the county is owned by the federal government. The Act would preserve existing economics and culture. It establishes 517,000 acres of wilderness and releases existing wilderness study areas and creates 384 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers while respecting state water rights and preserving river and land access for outdoor enthusiasts and sportsmen.Grant Simonds, Executive Director of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association and an Initiative Work Group member, said, "After five-plus years of negotiations both inside and in the field, which included hunters, motorized recreation interests, ranchers and conservationists, about 30 miles of road mapped by hunters are proposed to be closed. More than 500 miles requested by hunters will remain open to all, by law. Access is recognized in this legislation through a number of cherry stem, wilderness corridor and wilderness boundary four-wheel drive roads that have and will continue to be utilized by all public land users. Ninety percent of the wilderness areas will be within one to two miles of a road. An additional eight rights-of-way across private lands plus twelve new public access points across lands that will be purchased or traded to become public lands were also negotiated by the work group." A multiple-use trail system and public lands travel plans are also envisioned under the Initiative.Other Owyhee Work Group members note the benefits for wildlife under the Initiative. "This legislation helps guarantee that bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, sage grouse, and other wildlife will continue to thrive in the spectacular Owyhee landscape of Idaho while at the same time supporting local communities and a healthy economy," said Lou Lunte, an Initiative work group member who represents The Nature Conservancy. Crapo says an earlier introduction for the Owyhee Initiative this year will help the chances for passage. "We've done our homework. This is a bill that has come together after literally thousands of hours of work by people from all different perspectives. Because we've done our homework, we will have support from the very areas that in the past have generated conflict over this kind of legislation. Each interest got enough to enthusiastically support the final product, advocate for its enactment , and most importantly, support the objectives of those with whom they had previous conflict."To directly link to this news release, please use the following address: http://crapo.senate.gov/media/newsreleases/release_full.cfm?id=270246# # #FOR INTERESTED MEDIA: A radio actuality is available by calling 1-800-545-1267. Press 327 at any time during or after the greeting and instructions. You can also access the actuality through the Internet at http://src.senate.gov/radio/. Please note also that extended audio from this morning's announcement is also available on Crapo's website: http://crapo.senate.gov.