Several organizations have formed to voice their opinions about the management of the Owyhee public lands. One is the Owyhee Canyonlands Coalition. This coalition of conservation groups says overgrazing, uncontrolled use of off road vehicles, and other impacts are damaging the landscape. It wants to see greater protection of the canyonlands.
"The greater Owyhee Bruneau, Jarbidge ecosystem is about 2 ½ million acres and certainly al of that is at least worthy of protection. We're starting with the core of the canyonlands themselves and having some wilderness designation, wild and scenic river designation hopefully and from their expanding out into a national monument or national conservation area."
On the other side of the issue is the Owyhee Cattlemen's Association. Members think National Monument designation would just add more unnecessary regulation. Ranchers like Mike Hanley say they already take care of the land because their livelihood depends on it.
"It should be every farmer and ranchers responsibility to leave land better than he found it and I think that's what we've all done is try to improve on it and make it better."
Another organization involved with Owyhee land use is the Nature Conservancy. In 1996 the Conservancy purchased the 45 ranch on the south fork of the Owyhee River. With the purchase of the 240-acre ranch it also received a 70 thousand acre federal grazing allotment. Trish Klahr says instead of eliminating grazing on the allotment the Nature Conservancy decided to continue the operation on a smaller scale.
"One of our goals is not just to work at the 45 ranch, we really want to influence management throughout the Owyhee Canyonlands area. In order to gain the trust of other people who are working out here we've chosen to continue traditional uses such as livestock grazing… it has allowed us to gain the trust of some folks to really have conversations on what the future of the land should look like. How can we work together since we're all out here?"
For a more extensive look at the debate over how public land in the Owyhees and throughout the west should be used you'll soon be able to check out a special issue oriented website associated with a regional public televisions series called Focus West.