January 15, 2009

Owyhee Initiative, Lands Bill Passed By Senate

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo's Owyhee Initiative legislation, as part of an Omnibus Lands package, passed the Senate today on a vote of 73-21. The measure now goes to the House of Representatives and if passed there, could be signed into law next week.

The Owyhee Initiative provisions contained in S. 22, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, creates 517,000 acres of wilderness, releases 199,000 acres from wilderness study areas to multiple use and protects ranchers and rivers in Southwest Idaho.

The Lands bill also contains provisions for a land exchange in the Magic Valley to aid the Auger Falls park project and provisions to rename the Snake River Birds of Prey area in memory of raptor enthusiast Morley Nelson. Crapo was joined by Senator Jim Risch in supporting the proposal during today's vote. He worked with Risch, Montana Senator Jon Tester and Wyoming Senator John Barrasso to include funding provisions for ranchers who lose stock to wolf attacks.

"First of all, I want to say thank you to the Owyhee County Commissioners and all the members of the Owyhee Initiative Work Group for their hard work over a long period of time. I particularly want to mention and thank members of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes and the ranchers and conservationists who have had to be creative in their problem solving, committed to success and patient as we have worked through the necessary legislative processes," Crapo said.

"Today's vote is a very big development indeed but we must remember that this measure must still be passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law by the President. We expect this will happen within the next several days and I want to thank my Congressional partners in this effort-Senator Jim Risch, Representative Mike Simpson and Representative Walt Minnick.

"The enactment of the Owyhee Initiative into law in many ways signals the beginning of a lot of hard work. In order for the Owyhee Initiative to fulfill its considerable promise, several things must immediately occur. Specifically, we will be working with the new Secretary of the Interior, my colleague in the Senate, Ken Salazar of Colorado; the State of Idaho and Governor Butch Otter. The effort to raise the private money to assist with components of this legislation is already underway. Many of the same people who have helped us write and pass this legislation will help us implement it.

"By working together collaboratively, we may soon see a new dynamic in public lands management in Idaho. Our principal objectives have always included doing better for the land and the people who live, work and play in Owyhee County. We also seek to reduce the conflict that has impeded real progress in one of the most unique landscapes in North America," Crapo concluded.