As a result of your speaking up for the lands you love, the Bureau of Land Management brought substantial protections back into its Four Rivers District Resource Management Plan (RMP).
On February 14, the BLM released its final plan that will inform and guide resource management for the next 20-30 years on 780,000+ acres stretching from Glenns Ferry in the south, to Brownlee Reservoir in the north.
The agency’s original draft had stripped protections from the Boise Front, the Bennett Hills, and several other designated special conservation areas. The Idaho Conservation League and other conservation organizations engaged our members and supporters to provide comments and recommendations to the BLM, resulting in 11,000+ responses! This overwhelming reaction helped shape the conversation, bringing protections back into the plan.
The Bennett Hills
This area, located east of Mountain Home, will be managed as an 85,930 acre Backcountry Conservation Area (BCA), a new designation currently found only in Idaho and Montana that is designed to maintain a primitive, though roaded area. The BCA will ensure public access while providing critical habitat for upland birds and game, such as mule deer and elk that migrate from the Smoky Mountains and the Sawtooths to find reliable winter forage. Not only that, the Bennett Hills BCA will be withdrawn from mineral and oil/gas leasing!
The Boise Front
The Boise Front will receive dual protections. First, as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), numerous rare and sensitive plants found in the foothills will be protected. Second, as a Special Recreation Management Area, recreation opportunities will be preserved in the foothills while maintaining critical winter habitat for deer and elk. Originally set at 11,254 acres and slated for removal from the ACEC list, the Boise Front will increase to 15,080 acres and continue to provide a protected backdrop to our Capital City.
Hixon Columbian Sharp-Tailed Grouse ACEC
The Hixon Columbian Sharp-Tailed Grouse ACEC will increase from 4,170 acres to 18,660 acres, providing much needed habitat protections for this upland bird.
King Hill Creek and Box Creek Wilderness Study Areas
Although eliminated in the draft version, the BLM retained these two Wilderness Study Areas.
Sheep Mountain/Wildhorse River Region/Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWC)
Nearly 8,000 acres in the Sheep Mountain/Wildhorse River region are identified as LWC, which is significant because this protection was eliminated in the draft version. ICL and Idahoans worked hard to retain our LWCs. To put this into context, similar BLM RMPs in Alaska, Colorado, Montana and Oregon, unfortunately, resulted in zero acres of LWC protection.
Keep up the good work!
This good news is balanced by the loss of several ACECs and Research Natural Areas, including the reduction by half of the Long-Billed Curlew ACEC due to habitat destruction and mismanagement. Also, the BLM removed only the Bennett Hills from potential mineral development in the district. ICL will continue advocating for ACEC restoration and the withdrawal of mineral exploration, particularly oil and gas, from the Boise Front and other inappropriate areas.
Thank you for your commitment to our state and your willingness to stand up for your public lands. While much work remains, together we have achieved and can continue to make forward progress in protecting the special places, plants and wildlife that we all love.