One of the best things about living in Idaho is the freedom to go out with your family and enjoy Idaho’s public lands. There are hundreds of miles of back roads and historic trails to explore, letting everyone choose their own adventure. No place represents these values more than the Owyhees.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is developing a badly needed Travel Management Plan for the 425,000-acre Silver City Travel Planning Area in the Owyhees. This diverse landscape is named for the historic mining town of Silver City (see Silver City and Other Owyhee Treasures), but actually starts at the Owyhee Front and spans from Jump Creek to the North Fork Owyhee Wilderness and from the Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Scenic Byway (aka the Mud Flat Road) to the Oregon border.
This high desert canyon and sage ecosystem is one of the most remote and wide open pieces of the American West. Besides being a destination for generations of adventures, it’s a rare example of a vanishing ecosystem, home to wildlife including golden eagles, bighorn sheep, and sage grouse. This arid country is ruggedly beautiful, but also fragile and prone to damage from abuse.
The BLM is developing a travel plan to help recreationists access their public lands. Roads and motorized trails are parts of the adventure, but too many trails in the wrong places can ruin the solitude and wildlife habitat that makes this place special. Nesting golden eagles are particularly sensitive to human disturbance. Unfortunately, thoughtless recreationists have been ignoring the basic rules recommended by Owyhee County and have been blazing new cross-country trails across open rangeland, dumping trash, and vandalizing private property.
“The Owhyee front is becoming overwhelmed with the recent increase in recreation. The amount of trash, cross country travel, parking area destruction and disrespect for local ranchers is unacceptable.” – Owyhee County Press Release
Some of these bad actors are hoping to be rewarded. They are demanding that the BLM include these scars on the land as approved routes in Owyhee travel plans. If they can get away with pioneering 50 miles of new trails this year, you can guess what they will be doing next year. Soon, there won’t be any more backcountry left to explore on your own any more, quiet places to enjoy on a weekend, or wildlife to enjoy when you get there. This abuse should be stopped, not encouraged.
The good news is that Idahoans are coming together to work on a balanced trail system to secure public access for recreationists who enjoy all types of travel (2-wheel, 4-wheel 4-hoof, two-feet, etc), and are doing so in a way that protects wildlife, water quality, and all the other resources of the Owyhees.
Thoughtful recreationists are maintaining both motorized and non-motorized trails, organizing trash cleanups, and educating the next generation about trail etiquette and outdoor ethics. Recreationists are slowing down to greet each other on trails, helping each other out when needed, and giving back to the land. This vision of the Owyhees has plenty of room for hikers, equestrians, mountain bikers, dirt bikers, and OHV enthusiasts. The key is working together for this balanced plan and building respect for all user groups.
ICL and others are supporting a modified version of Alternative B that leaves space for wildlife such as golden eagles (there are 10 known nesting territories) and converts some motorized trails for equestrian and other non-motorized use to provide for a diversity of recreation opportunities. The Silver City Travel Plan, if done right, will create a sustainable trail system that provides public access needed to support both local livelihoods and recreation, gives the wildlife the space they need to roam, and helps show new recreationists how to be good neighbors.
Out of the 1,103 miles of known motorized routes in the Silver City area, the BLM intends on designating 957 miles of motorized routes in Alternative B, 996 miles in Alternative C and 1,031 miles in Alternative D.
In every alternative, the BML proposes designating just one mile of non-motorized trails.
This travel plan is going to be in place for decades. NOW is the time for YOU to make a difference. Please tell the BLM the following:
- You prefer Alternative B as a cap for motorized trails.
- The BLM should provide at least a ¾-mile buffer around golden eagle nests.
- The travel plan should convert additional motorized trails into non-motorized trails for equestrians, mountain bikers, and hikers.
- The old wagon road alongside Presby Creek to Avondale Basin (Route ID: 37SC8032) and Sawpit Gulch (Route ID: 37SC10010.100) should be non-motorized.
Make your comment stand out by mentioning a personal connection you have to the Owyhees (from a hiking trip, a scenic drive, or a wildlife viewing adventure).
The BLM is taking public comments through February 12, 2024. TAKE ACTION TODAY by clicking the button below and personalizing your comment!
Thank you for speaking up for the solitude of the Owyhee backcountry as well as for the wildlife that depend on having some quiet places they can call their own.
Opponents to travel planning say that every route is needed, and if you close a road it will be lost forever. Others point out that if you designate a road where it shouldn’t be, the wildlife will be lost forever. Let’s take the time to get this right. Thank you for speaking up for your public lands and wildlife.
The Grand View Travel Management Plans will be out for public comment next. Please sign up here to be alerted when these next travel plans come out and speak up for your favorite hiking trails and wildlife areas.