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Crapo Introduces Owyhee Initiative

Legislation preserves lands, traditions; takes local collaboration to Congress

Washington, DC â?? With five years of collaborative work backing him, Idaho Senator Mike Crapo today introduced wide-ranging legislation that could set a standard for future public lands management. The Owyhee Initiative Implementation Act will end decades of public lands conflict in southwestern Idaho and establish a path for future management of that area. Ranching will continue, traditional uses are preserved, water rights are protected, wilderness is designated and a path to the future is set forth.â??This is a unique opportunity to set the standard for collaborative decision-making,â?? Crapo said. â??The Owyhee Initiative is a model for solving public lands management issues. This legislation enjoys far-reaching support because of the strong and unified group of landowners, conservationists, ranchers, tribal leaders, Air Force personnel, environmental groups, sportsmen, off-road enthusiasts and locally-elected leaders who have negotiated a path forward that meets everyoneâ??s principal objectives. â??On behalf of this extraordinary group of people, I seek Congressional approval of this collaborative effort, which was built from the ground up by those who live on and use the land in Owyhee County, to resolve land use conflicts. I am proud to be a part of this effort and I pledge to do everything in my power to move it swiftly through the Congress and to the Presidentâ??s desk for his signature,â?? Crapo added.Principal features of the legislation include:â?¢ Development, funding and implementation of a landscape-scale program to review, recommend and coordinate landscape conservation and research projects; â?¢ Scientific review process to assist the Bureau of Land Management; â?¢ Designation of Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers; â?¢ Release of Wilderness Study Areas; â?¢ Protections of tribal cultural and historical resources against intentional and unintentional abuse and desecration.â?¢ Development and implementation by the BLM of travel plans for public lands; â?¢ A board of directors with oversight over the administration and implementation of the Owyhee Initiative.Crapo continued, â??This canâ??t be called a ranching bill, a wilderness bill, an Air Force bill or a Tribal bill. It is a comprehensive land management bill. Each interest received enough to enthusiastically support the final product, advocate for its enactment and, most importantly, support the final objectives of those with whom they had previous conflict. There will be opposition, but it will come from a few principal sources: those who simply oppose wilderness designation; those who donâ??t want livestock anywhere on public lands; and those who do not want to see collaboration succeed. While I respect that opposition, it is better to move forward with this joint effort that manages the conflict and the land rather than exploits the disagreements.â??The Owyhee Initiative Implementation Act will preserve public lands ranching for future generations. Motorized access is assured on more than 9,800 miles of roads and enhanced on private lands. The Act designates 517,000 acres of wilderness and releases 199,000 acres of Wilderness Study Areas to multiple use. The Act also designates 386 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers while protecting all water rights. The Air Force will continue to train pilots in the area. The cultural resources that are of spiritual significance to the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe are protected. Crapoâ??s involvement with the Initiative began in 2001 when the Owyhee County Commissioners asked him to help mediate discussions that could lead to a collaborative agreement regarding public lands management in the county. He met several times with members of the Initiative work group, which reached final consensus on the agreementâ??s language late last month. Crapo announced the agreement to the Owyhee Cattlemenâ??s Association annual meeting in Silver City last weekend.Crapo concluded his floor statement by thanking the Initiative work group and others involved in the process over the last five years. â??I would like to recognize and thank the diverse cast of those people who have been the real engine driving this process. This process truly benefited from the diversity of these groups and their willingness to cooperate to reach a common goal of protecting the land on which they live, work, and play.â?? The Working Group included: Fred Grant, Chairman of the Owyhee Initiative Work Group; Hal Tolmie, Owyhee County Commission Chairman; Dick Reynolds and Chris Salove, Owyhee County Commissioners; Chairman Terry Gibson of the Shoshone Paiute Tribes; Gary Aman, Owyhee County Sheriff; Craig Gehrke and John McCarthy of The Wilderness Society, Rick Johnson and John Robison of the Idaho Conservation League; Inez Jaca representing Owyhee County; Dr. Chad Gibson and Brad Huff representing the Owyhee Cattlemanâ??s Association; Brenda Richards representing private property owners in Owyhee County; Cindy & Frank Bachman representing the Soil Conservation Districts in Owyhee County; Grant Simonds of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association; Bill Sedivy with Idaho Rivers United; Tim Lowry of the Owyhee County Farm Bureau; Bill Walsh representing Southern Idaho Desert Racing Association; Lou Lunte and Will Whelan of the Nature Conservancy. â??Iâ??d also like to thank the staff of the Bureau of Land Management and the State Department of Lands; Marcia Argust with the Campaign for Americaâ??s Wilderness; the Idaho Back Country Horseman; the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep; Roger Singer of the Sierra Club; the South Board of Control and the Owyhee Project managers; and all the other water right holders who support me today,â?? Crapo added. â??And special thanks go to Governor Jim Risch of the Great State of Idaho for all of his support and Colonel Anthony Rock of the United States Air Force at Mountain Home Air Force Base and retired Air Force Colonel Bruce Wong.â?? # # #