Two southwest Idaho landowners agreed to sell pieces of land in the first private land acquisition in the Owyhee Initiative.
The purchase of 971 acres is the latest step in a plan that includes federal legislation passed with the help of Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo. The land was sold to the nonprofit Wilderness Land Trust and will eventually end up being transferred to the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
“The Owyhee Initiative is going to be a template to settle these issues related to roadless wilderness throughout the western United States, and I’m glad we’re about to be a part of it,” said rancher Mike Hanley, one of the landowners who is selling 611 acres along the Owyhee River. He said wilderness issues are subject to lawsuits, and prefers the current plan of letting wilderness groups buy land from willing sellers to other alternatives, such as creating more national parks.
“It took a lot of work by a lot of people,” Crapo said about the land purchase and the Owyhee Initiative. The legislation approved last year designates more than 500,000 acres as wilderness.
The BLM will pay for the purchases by selling other land it owns in southwest Idaho. Aden Seidlitz with BLM said the slow economy and declining land values are hurting the bureau’s efforts to sell parts of its 4.3 million acres.
“These ranchers are very committed to the landscape,” said David Kirk with the Wilderness Land Trust, which bought the private land. “The landscape is enriched by the human involvement.” Once the land is transferred to BLM, it will be open to the public.