Our friend and partner Rick Johnson, Executive Director of the Idaho Conservation League, sent us this photo, taken with his iPhone, of President Obama signing into law the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009.photo4

Among other highlights, the Act designates 269,016 acres as wilderness in the Owyhee Canyonlands of southwestern Idaho. The Act also protects 316 miles of streams and rivers in the Owyhees under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. This is the first new wilderness designation in Idaho in over 25 years and, given that Idaho has more roadless acres than any other state in the Lower 48, is a major and long-awaited milestone.

How the Owyhees received this landmark conservation designation may be as significant as what got protected and sets the stage for similar ongoing work in the state, including in the Pioneers-Craters landscape. The Owyhee portion of the Act was hammered out by a diverse group of stakeholders, including conservationists, ranchers, federal and state officials, county commissioners, and representatives of recreation groups, over an 8-year period. Clearly, collaborative conservation efforts will be at the center of large scale conservation in the West in the coming decade.

Congratulations to Idaho Conservation League, The Nature Conservancy, Senator Crapo, Owyhee area ranchers and residents and our other friends who worked long and hard to protect this spectacular landscape.