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Owyhee Initiative celebrates 10 years of collaboration

The forum featured three panel discussions about wildfire treatment and the outcomes that have come from the initiative.
Credit: Associated Press
This Aug. 15, 2019, photo shows dozens of juniper trees cut down as part of a giant project to remove junipers encroaching on sagebrush habitat needed by imperiled sage grouse in southwestern Idaho. The Bruneau-Owyhee Sage-Grouse Habitat Project aims to remove junipers on 965 square miles of state and federal land in Owyhee County.

MARSING, Idaho — Ten years ago, Owyhee County ranchers, conservationists and other stakeholders combined their interests to create the Owyhee Initiative, a management agreement to help the area as it faces common challenges like invasive species, wildfires and water availability.

The Owyhee Initiative celebrated its 10th anniversary Thursday at the Rangeland Fall Forum in Marsing, an event aimed at encouraging communities to use science-based solutions for problems facing open lands, according to a report from the Idaho Press.

Lynn Scarlett, vice president for public policy and government relations with The Nature Conservancy, was selected as the keynote speaker at the event in Marsing. As deputy interior secretary under President George W. Bush, Scarlett oversaw the initiative’s negotiations, according to reporting from Public News Service.

“Owyhee County is one of the pioneers, one of the leaders in helping to both generate and then sustain these efforts,” Scarlett told Public News Service. “And they’re essential, because I also always like to say to folks, ‘You know, we can have our own passions and our own view of the perfect, but in the end no solutions are going to be durable unless they work for all the people in those places.’”

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The initiative brought about legislation sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, in 2009. The legislation created protections for 517,000 acres of wilderness, 316 miles of National Wild and Scenic Rivers, closure of 200 miles of motorized trails, better enforcement of off-highway vehicle use and increased protection of Shoshone-Paiute cultural resources, according to Steve Stuebner of the Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission. The bill was signed into federal law in March 2009 by former President Barack Obama.

The forum on Thursday featured three panel discussions about wildfire treatment and the outcomes that have come from the initiative.

Participants on Friday are scheduled to visit Triangle, Idaho, to see the restoration efforts in the Owyhees firsthand and learn about targeted grazing, juniper removal, riparian restoration techniques, and more, according to the event description on the University of Idaho’s Rangeland Center website.

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