Precious Lands landscape

The terrain of the Nez Perce Tribe’s 16,268-acre Precious Lands Wildlife Area (Héte’wits Wétes) in the northeastern corner of Wallowa County is rugged. New rules include restricted use of ammunition and fishing tackle that contain lead to avoid unintended mortality of avian scavangers and diving birds.

With black bear season on the horizon, hunters should be aware that non-lead-based ammunition is now required on the Nez Perce Precious Lands.

The Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee has adopted several new rules for public use of its 16,268-acre Precious Lands Wildlife Area, Héte’wits Wétes, in Wallowa County’s far-northeastern corner. The property has long been open for “reasonable public use” as guided by a set of public use rules outlining approved activities. Those rules were updated on September, 11, 2018, and are in effect now.

The new rules include requiring use of non-lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NWPCC) cooperates with the Nez Perce Tribe in conserving habitat, and restoring the land here. “They asked us to restrict the use of tackle and ammunition that contains lead,” Precious Lands, Héte’wits Wétes Manager Angela Sondenaa said. “Lead has unintended, and often lethal consequences for non-target wildlife species, especially avian scavengers.” Lead-based tackle can also affect diving birds, including cormorants, and osprey that frequent the lower portions of Joseph Creek.

Don’t bring any pack-goats along to carry your gear. They are banned as well. Horses, mules and llamas, are still welcome. Barring pack goats, no matter how cute and easy on the land they might be, makes sense at Precious Lands, Héte’wits Wétes. “We have bighorn sheep here,” Sondenaa said. “Goats, like domestic sheep, can carry the Pasteurella pneumonia pathogen that is lethal to the bighorns.”

The new rules also prohibit gathering of plant resources for commercial purposes, i.e., wildcrafting, along with cutting live trees or firewood to sell or take home. The practice of commercial wildcrafting—foraging for wild plant materials to make medicines, edibles and other products for sale—has not yet impacted The Precious Lands Sondenaa noted. But it’s another of those issues that the Nez Perce and NWPCC want to prevent before over-harvesting damages the populations and habitats of native plants. “These are emerging issues,” said Sondenaa. “We are trying to get ahead of things so we don’t have problems in the future.”

Most of the previous rules for Héte’wits Wétes remain in effect. They include requirements to remove litter and waste, follow all applicable state hunting regulations, and camp for a maximum of seven days in one place, and 14 days total on the property. Additionally, all access must be non-motorized--by foot, bicycle or stock. “We want people to enjoy this beautiful place, but use it with care, in ways that preserve it for future generations,” Sondenaa said.

Maps of the lands and posts of the revised regulations are posted on kiosks at major entry points on USFS Road 4655, and off County Road 614 off Rye Ridge Road. For a copy of the revised regulations, maps, or questions, contact Angela Sondenaa, Precious Lands Project Leader at 208-843-7372 or

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