The Owyhee Canyonlands area a remote area made of deep canyons and high desert plateaus in southern Idaho.
Little Jacks Creek Wilderness The Owyhee Canyonlands area a remote area made of deep canyons and high desert plateaus in southern Idaho. © Bob Wick/BLM

Places We Protect

Owyhees

Idaho

Collaboration protects the heart of Idaho's sagebrush country

Overview

Welcome to sagebrush country.  No, it's not just what you see going 75 on the interstate.

Beneath the brushy sagebrush lies all kinds of plants, from beautiful bunch grasses, to shrubs that mule deer eat like candy, to lush forbs. In spring this place will be full of wildflowers.

Keep an eye out and you could see a sage grouse, a badger, a burrowing owl, even a mountain lion. Chances are, there's a prairie falcon flying overhead, or a even golden eagle.  

There are deep canyons and high desert plateaus to explore and there could be 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.  

Welcome to the heart of Idaho's living desert: The Owyhees.  

Working Together In the Owyhees

Sagebrush country may appear endless, but in reality only 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.

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.

Owyhee Initiative

That's why TNC is proud to participate in the Owyhee Initiative, a group that brings together conservationists, ranchers, sportsmen and the Shoshone-Paiute tribes to find new solutions for often contentious land use issues in the Owyhees.

Legislation that resulted from this collaboration created the first new wilderness in Idaho in 29 years in 2009. TNC worked with the Wilderness Land Trust to acquire private properties that provide direct access to wilderness at Jacks Creek and the North Fork of the Owyhee. Thanks to these acquisitions, you can reach these wilderness areas via passenger car directly off the Owyhee Backcountry Byway (Mud Flat Road).

45 Ranch

Located in an extremely remote area of the Owyhees, the 45 Ranch was owned by The Nature Conservancy for ten years. During this time we undertook extensive vegetation mapping, habitat restoration and ecological monitoring.

In 2005, we sold the property to a conservation buyer willing to help us achieve ambitious conservation goals on the 240-acre ranch and its nearly 70,000 acres of public land grazing allotments. A BLM easement already in place will continue to guarantee road access through the property and access to the river for floaters.

We continue to recognize the Owyhees as one of the most important ecological regions of the state, and we will continue to work with the local community to help fight invasive weeds, engage in the Owyhee Initiative and work to protect both the natural and human communities in this special place.