May 07, 2008

Owyhee Initiative Clears Committee

Floor vote could come in June

Washington, DC - The Owyhee Initiative, federal legislation sponsored by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo to settle land management issues and create new wilderness in Southwest Idaho, was given approval today by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The Owyhee Initiative bill (S. 2833, the Owyhee Public Lands Management Act) passed on a voice vote, and will likely be included in a package of other land management bills that will be considered together by the full Senate as early as next month.

"The Owyhee Initiative has made great progress here in the Senate, just as it has on the ground in Idaho, but we still have much to accomplish," Crapo said. "We continue to work hard to secure the necessary funding to implement the language in the Initiative, and we must prepare to implement the agreements in the legislation once they become law. We will remain vigilant to assure that the objectives of the Owyhee Initiative Agreement will be achieved."

S. 2833 creates 517,000 of new wilderness and releases 199,000 acres of wilderness study areas in some of Idaho's most rugged and scenic backcountry. It also provides certainty for continued ranching and economic activity and ensures continued access for backcountry users and preservation for Shoshone Paiute Tribal cultural resources in the area through local management agreements.

Wilderness advocates, ranching representatives and Senators testified favorably about the Owyhee Initiative during a hearing last month. The provisions in the Initiative were hammered out through an eight-year effort in Idaho begun by the Owyhee County Commissioners, who requested that Crapo assist with the collaborative process.