April 11, 2008

Owyhee Initiative Hearing Set For April 22

Crapo legislation protects lands, ranchers in Owyhee County

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo announced that his legislation to protect lands, rivers and ranchers, and allow for local land management decisions in Owyhee County will receive a hearing on April 22 before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests. The Owyhee Initiative has been a nearly eight-year process, bringing together interests across the public lands spectrum to preserve wild lands in Idaho while guaranteeing economic interests and Western lifestyles.

Crapo introduced a new Owyhee Initiative bill, S. 2833, the Owyhee Public Lands Management Act, this week in the U.S. Senate. The hearing on April 22 will be followed by a markup of the legislation, and changes to it are possible throughout the process.

"The actions we are able to announce today bring us the best opportunity to pass the Owyhee Initiative in Congress this year and retain an effort rich with the collaboration and consensus tone we set back in 2001," Crapo said. "All of us understand that we must provide the funding for all aspects of the Initiative. We want to assure all of our collaborators of our commitment to secure the necessary funding."

Owyhee Initiative Work Group Chairmen Fred Grant and Craig Gehrke joined Crapo for the announcement. Grant, who advises the Owyhee County Commissioners and local ranchers, was in Washington, D.C. for the announcement. "We do have a bill introduced, one I think has a real possibility of succeeding," Grant said.

Gehrke, who heads the Idaho Wilderness Society, said, "There remains work yet to be done to get the funding we need to implement the agreement, but all of the work group remains committed to obtain the funding to make the Initiative a reality."

If approved, Crapo's legislation would preserve 517,000 acres as wilderness in Owyhee County and release 200,000 of wilderness study areas to full multiple use. Parts of rivers in the Owyhees will receive federal protection while retaining public access.

Crapo praised the efforts of the work group as well as Idaho Senator Larry Craig for his support throughout the process. He noted that staff members for both the majority and minority leadership on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests have visited Idaho to tour the Owyhees and meet with local residents. Crapo also mentioned that support for the collaborative process used in developing the Owyhee legislation remains a strong point in its support in Congress.