The value of getting out in nature during stressful times has really been a focus during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 situation we find ourselves in. And it’s clear the public lands of the Owyhee have become a place of comfort for people. Particularly our popular, easy-to-access areas: the canyon below the dam, Succor Creek State Natural Area, and Leslie Gulch. I drove through these areas on March 21st and was shocked by the amount of traffic. In the Succor Creek area, I counted over 100 vehicles, ATVs, and campers. It was a parking lot in Leslie Gulch at the Juniper Gulch Trailhead. I have never seen traffic like this in these areas. Given the current need to practice social distancing, I appreciate campgrounds in the area that are now temporarily closed for public safety. This temporary management effort should reduce traffic in these areas. If you still choose to camp in the Owyhee during this time please practice social distancing and please practice leave no trace outdoor ethics.

The amount of recent traffic could be a reality in 10 years, not for a pandemic, but for population growth. As the Treasure Valley expands, more and more people are looking to find solitude and disconnect on their public lands. Now is the time as public landowners, we ask for a better management plan of these places before the higher use becomes a situation of misuse and an “overloving” of the Owyhee.

As executive director for Friends of the Owyhee, I look forward to working with the land management agencies on the future management of these areas to help balance the recreation and ecological health of the land for future generations for all of us to enjoy.

I would like to hear your thoughts on the future of these popular recreation areas in the Owyhee. Please email me at owyheefriends@gmail.com.

Friends of the Owyhee mission is conservation advocacy, stewardship, and recreation in the Owyhee region. Find more info about us at friendsoftheowyhee.org, Facebook, and Instagram.

Tim Davis is the executive director of Friends of the Owhyee. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of The Argus Observer.

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