Welcome to sagebrush country. No, it's not what you see going 75 on the interstate. Let's take a closer look. Get out of your car. Take a deep breath and smell the sagebrush. Prepare for an adventure.
That's the spirit.
Bend down: Beneath the brushy sagebrush lies all kinds of plants, from beautiful bunch grasses, to shrubs that mule deer eat like candy, to lush forbs. Come back in the spring and this place will be full of wildflowers painting the landscape red, blue, yellow, white.
Keep an eye out ahead of you. What's that movement? It could be a sage grouse, a badger, a burrowing owl, even a mountain lion. And don't forget the sky: Chances are, there's a prairie falcon up there, or a golden eagle. Listen: A meadowlark calls from a fencepost; coyotes yip in the distance.
Let's go a bit farther. There: A canyon, just begging to be explored. Proceed quietly; there could be a herd of bighorn sheep just around the bend. Take in the view, as spectacular here as anything you'd find in Utah or Arizona, without the crowds of tourists.
Try and take it all in. But look around: You've barely scratched the surface.
Welcome to sagebrush country. Welcome to the heart of Idaho's living desert: The Owyhees.
Sagebrush country may appear endless, but in reality on a fraction of this habitat remains. Conversions to agriculture, too-frequent fire cycles followed by invasion of non-native weeds and subdivision have had tremendous negative impacts on sagebrush habitat. Increasing numbers of visitors of visitors from the nearby Treasure Valley visit this special place for hiking, hunting, off-road riding and rafting, placing new demands on the high desert.
The Nature Conservancy believes that by working together, we can conserve this special place for people and nature. We believe that conservation solutions must also address the needs of ranchers, who have been in the Owyhees for generations and have strong ties to the land.
That's why The Nature Conservancy was proud to be a participant in the Owyhee Initiative, a work group that brought together conservationists, ranchers, sportsmen and the Shoshone-Paiute tribes to find new solutions for often contentious land use issues in the Owyhees.
A legislation that resulted from this collaboration created the first new wilderness in Idaho in 29 years. Last year, the Conservancy worked with the Wilderness Land Trust to acquire to private properties that will now provide direct access to wilderness at Jacks Creek and the North Fork of the Owyhee. Thanks to these acquisitions, you can now reach these wilderness areas via passenger car directly off the Owyhee Backcountry Byway (Mud Flat Road).
The Nature Conservancy also engages in on-the-ground projects in the Owyhees, including weed control efforts and habitat restoration.