- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Federal authorities have made public the final management plan for six wilderness areas and 16 wild and scenic river segments in southwestern Idaho, starting a 30-day appeals process.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Monday published on the Federal Register the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers Management Plan.

The process allows for appeals to be made during the next 30 days concerning the state’s newest wilderness areas that include about 518,000 acres and 325 miles of wild and scenic river in Owyhee County. The six rugged areas became federally protected preserves in 2009 after U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, cobbled together a coalition of ranchers, wilderness advocates, outdoor enthusiasts and others in an effort called the Owyhee Initiative.

“This is certainly a milestone, and we’re looking forward to reviewing the document and seeing if it’s captured the intent of the Owyhee Initiative,” said John Robison of the Idaho Conservation League. “It’s the kind of wilderness area we’re going to keep as it is. Come if you’re up for it.”

The 99-page federal document contains rules ranging from floating on rivers, hunting and grazing livestock.

“The purpose is not to have improvements,” said MJ Byrne, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management’s Boise District, who emphasized visitors need to be self-sufficient. “The purpose is to keep its wild, wilderness character.”

Kevin Lewis of Idaho Rivers United said he hadn’t had time to review the document. Members of the Owyhee Cattlemen’s Association didn’t respond to emails from The Associated Press on Monday.

The sweeping land-use package added six wilderness areas and opened other previously off-limits areas to motorized recreation, livestock grazing and other activities. It also provided ranchers with cash and federal land in exchange for giving up private land and giving up grazing rights on some public land.

Grazing remains on portions of the wilderness, and there are both private and state land inholdings. Byrne said ranchers during the last five years have sold property that’s been added to the wilderness. Numbers weren’t available Monday.

Byrne also said Idaho and federal officials are working on a land swap to trade state land within the wilderness for federal land outside of it. But she described that process as in its formative stage.

While wilderness designations generally prohibit mechanized equipment, it will be allowed in some areas associated with pre-existing rights, the plan says. The final plan also prohibits goats as stock animals and domestic sheep grazing to protect California bighorns in the wilderness from potential diseases.

If an appeal is filed, the group filing the appeal has 30 days to supply a reason. Byrne said an appeal starts a review process.

The six wilderness areas are the 50,929-acre Little Jacks Creek Wilderness, the 12,533-acre Pole Creek Wilderness, the 42,413-acre North Fork Owyhee Wilderness, the 267,328-acre Owyhee River Wilderness, the 52,826-acre Big Jacks Creek Wilderness, and the 89,996-acre Bruneau-Jarbidge Rivers Wilderness.

Some areas are only about 45 minutes south of Boise, but other portions are more remote with little access. Byrne said it’s not clear if the wilderness designation increased travel to the area.

“(The plan) does provide for full stewardship of the treasure of the Owyhee Canyonlands,” Byrne said. “And they are treasures.”

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