The Canyonlands are located relatively close to Boise, but are a world apart from urban life.
While this remote and rugged country remains largely untouched, increasing pressure from an expanding Boise Metro population has led to both more recreationists discovering the area, and increased inappropriate recreation. Motorized-recreation enthusiasts are trying to open up the area to additional off-road vehicle, snowmobile and jet boat use. Problems from overgrazing in sensitive riparian zones and looting of important artifacts - such as arrowheads - in sacred Shoshone and Paiute sites also continue to be problems.
After years spent playing defense and minimizing the impacts of an Air Force bombing range, the Sierra Club's Northern Rockies Chapter in Idaho has begun an aggressive offensive campaign to get the region permanently protected. Activists have held "edu-tainment" concerts attended by as many as 700 people, and at times as many as 150 volunteers helped out with a door-to-door postcard campaign.
The potentially good news is that a collaborative process has begun whereby the conservation community is working with ranchers and U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo's office and county commissioners to craft a plan that includes significant wilderness designation. The current citizen's wilderness proposal suggests wilderness protection for 1.3 million acres of wildlands.
What you can do: Call Sen. Crapo's office at (202) 224-6142 and tell him that any collaborative process should include significant wilderness designation. To find out more about the Owyhee Canyonlands, and the fourth annual Owyhee Rendezvous June 13-16, contact Roger Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 384-1023.
Photo courtesy Steve Bly.