Photo by Tyson Fisher
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A crown jewel of the Owyhee Canyonlands, Leslie Gulch is renown for not only its beauty but also its ecological significance in the region. This area has long been recognized and protected for its outstanding scenery, bighorn sheep and rare plant species.
Flora and fauna flourish in Leslie Gulch. In 1965, biologists reintroduced 17 California bighorn sheep to the Owyhee, starting here. Now the entire Owyhee River drainage is home to the largest California bighorn sheep herd in the nation. In addition, Leslie Gulch provides a home for mule deer and golden eagles.
Then in 1983, the BLM designated more than 11,000 acres in and around Leslie Gulch as an Area of Environmental Concern, which means it’s protected from any further development. The bighorn population played a role, but more significant were plants growing here that exist nowhere else in the world.
There are five such exceedingly rare species within Leslie Gulch: sterile milkvetch, Packard’s blazing star, Ertter’s groundsel, grimy ivesia and Owyhee clover. The groundsel and blazing star are annuals that grow only in Leslie Gulch’s ash deposits and in two Wilderness Study Areas directly to the north.