Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Idaho’s newest wilderness

Passage of the Owyhee Canyonlands wilderness bill created the first designated wilderness in Idaho in nearly 30 years—an awfully long time to wait given the state's spectacular wild country.

As the bill's main sponsor, Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo, found out, creation of wilderness areas in this conservative state is always a controversial and difficult undertaking.

But it's not impossible.

It took tenacity by Crapo and his staff. It took several years to hammer out a proposal palatable to southwest Idaho ranchers who graze cattle on public lands and to wilderness advocates who wanted to protect the scenic canyonlands through which the Owyhee, Bruneau and Jarbidge rivers gush in spectacular spring flows. It took give and take between the people with the most to win and those with the most to lose from a new wilderness area.

Finally, it took a change in leadership from Republican to Democrat in Congress and in the White House to get the wilderness designation passed.

The Owyhee Canyonlands wilderness will put southwest Idaho's recreation offerings on the map—literally. This will enhance Idaho's reputation as a place to be explored by those seeking adventure, which can only help the state's economy.

It's a significant achievement of which all should be very, very proud.

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