What Is The Owyhee?
The Owyhee is an ecoregion that extends between southeastern Oregon, southwestern Idaho, and northern Nevada. This high desert ecosystem is famous for its plentiful sagebrush, sweltering summers, and breathtaking views. It’s home to a number of unique species in critical condition, such as the sage-grouse and the pygmy rabbit. The Owyhee provides not only varied recreation opportunities—hiking, camping, and rafting, just to name a few—but it also hosts the Owyhee Watershed, the main source of water for the Treasure Valley that irrigates about 1,800 farms and 118,000 irrigated acres in eastern Oregon and part of southwestern Idaho.
The Owyhee is the last great expanse of land in the western United States of America that remains largely untouched. Much of the Owyhee is quite remote, lacking cell service and paved roads. Natural conditions prevail out here, and if you’re not prepared for them, the great Owyhee can chew you up and spit you out. It’s certainly a challenge, but it’s more than worthwhile. The views and the pure connection with nature that you access out here in the Owyhee are unparalleled.
Friends of the Owyhee acknowledges that Indigenous peoples and nations—including the Shoshone-Bannock people and the Numu (Northern Paiute) people—have stewarded through generations the lands and waterways of what is now designated as the Owyhee. We honor and respect the enduring relationship that exists between these peoples and nations and this land.
Who Are We?
FOTO’s founder, Tim Davis, grew up on the landscape. His childhood days were spent exploring and relishing the Owyhee. As he got older, he realized how few locals visited their own backyard—the same one he was raised to love. He eventually decided it was time to use his knowledge of and passion for this unique landscape to get others out into this incredible world. So, in 2015, Friends of the Owyhee was born. While the initial aim was to encourage and facilitate responsible recreation in the Owyhee, the mission statement expanded as Tim plunged himself further into the non-profit realm.
Friends of the Owyhee exists to promote conservation advocacy, stewardship, and responsible recreation in the Owyhee region. We work collaboratively with conservation and recreation groups, landowners, ranchers, tribes, sportsmen, and government agencies to help ensure the Owyhee’s unique ecological, cultural, and recreational resources are protected for future generations to experience and enjoy. Friends of the Owyhee has grown a great deal since its inception in 2015—it now boasts 3 full-time employees and 7 volunteers on the Board of Directors.
FOTO works hard to increase awareness and visibility of the Owyhee in the eyes of both the public and the US government. One of the key ways we achieve this is through the creation and implementation of law and policy. Since the majority of the Owyhee remains unprotected by any federal law, there is a lot of work to do in this particular area.
Currently, we are working with several organizations and the offices of Oregon Senators Wyden and Merkley on two major bills: the Malheur Community Empowerment for the Owyhee (Malheur CEO) Act and the River Democracy Act of 2021. We realize that law and policy have been proven effective to promote conservation and prevent harmful development on public lands, and we are determined to use these tools to become better stewards of the land.
Protections for the Owyhee
Stewardship and Recreation in the Owyhee
We have found that another effective way of raising awareness about the Owyhee and its conservation needs is to actually show people the place we’re asking them to protect. After all, the Owyhee is designated as public land—it belongs to everyone, so everyone should have a chance to get out there and enjoy it! That is where our recreation trips come in. As Owyhee experts, we love introducing locals (and non-locals) to some of its most special spots. Of course, recreation isn’t always conducted as responsibly as it should be, so we also host stewardship events like clean-ups. This way, we are doing our part to take care of our public lands.
Notes From The Field
There is so much information that we want to share with you! That’s why we’re releasing new blog posts every other Friday. We talk about current events, things you should know, conservation and travel tips, and so much more. If you have an idea for a blog and would like us to write about it, feel free to get in touch with us and let us know! We also welcome guest bloggers—building our community is something we’re passionate about, and we’d love to feature your voice.