Wilderness Land Trust
While the Owyhee Initiative legislation provides some funding for various projects in the canyonlands, there's also a big emphasis on raising private money for land acquisitions. Conservation groups are raising funds to compensate ranchers who willingly want to sell property within or adjacent to wilderness areas.
A group brought to Idaho as part of the Initiative is at the forefront of this effort. They are called the Wilderness Land Trust. Members of the organization have been looking into possible purchases in the canyonlands.
Several members of the Trust travelled to Idaho to look at parcels that would both provide greater public access to wilderness areas and that ranchers were willing to sell. They have subsequently acquired a parcel off the Mud Flat road bordering the Little Jacks Creek Wilderness and another bordering the North Fork of the Owyhee Wilderness.
We heard that there were properties that local land owners, ranchers, were willing to sell, wanted to sell, that didn't fit in with their ranching operations anymore and that might provide access points for people into the wilderness. And that's the kind of work we do.
Wilderness isn't zoning so if it is in the wilderness area the landowner retains their rights but some people don't like to be inside the line. The Initiative dealt with that early on in its collaborative effort and made it so that some of these lands are now left out of the wilderness, they're adjacent to it. But they were forward thinking and put into the legislation that if they ever become federally owned they will be incorporated into the wilderness area. So, we were asked to get involved toward the end of the collaborative process when the wilderness was designated because agreements and promises had been made to address these private land issues. We started working with the folks involved in the collaborative about a year or so ago to begin to learn about this landscape and learn how we could help out.