Snake River Birds of Prey NCA



The Birds of Prey Area was recognized by falconers and raptor enthusiasts as containing an unusually high number of nesting raptors. There were over 1,000 nesting pairs of raptors representing 15 species, and another 5-10 non-nesting raptor species.


  • The first golden eagle survey was completed.

Late 1960 and early 1970

  • University of Idaho students studied golden eagles and prairie falcons.


  • BLM began a land use planning process which stressed the need for more information regarding raptors and their habitat requirements.


  • Secretary of Interior Rogers C.B. Morton dedicated 26,714 acres along the Snake River as the Snake River Birds of Prey Natural Area (Public Land Order (PLO) 5133).


  • BLM initiated a raptor research project to study raptors in the Natural Area.
    Researchers found that the Natural Area encompassed only a portion of the major nesting habitat and very little of the hunting territory used by raptors.
  • Researchers also noted that every year, more land was being planted to crops under the Desert Land Act and Carey Act programs.
  • Researchers found no jackrabbits or ground squirrels inhabiting these newly developed farms, and raptor populations began to decrease. 


  • BLM issued a temporary moratorium on processing Desert Land and Carey Act applications on almost 280,000 acres of public land adjacent to the Natural Area to keep the lands in a natural state while the research continued.
  • The original raptor research project was broadened into an integrated team project to investigate the ecology of raptors and their prey within a larger Birds of Prey Study Area. 


  • The research project found that raptors were using even more lands for hunting areas.
  • The Secretary of Interior issued a directive for BLM to enlarge the study area by an additional 234,000 acres, thus making the study area 515,000 acres in size.
  • BLM was directed to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to determine the impacts of designating the 515,000 acre study area as a National Conservation Area (NCA). 


  • The EIS was completed, recommending the 515,000 acre study area be designated an NCA by act of congress and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act be amended. 


  • Secretary of Interior Cecil Andrus issued PLO 5777, designating the 482,000 acre Snake River Birds of Prey Area. 


  • Public Law 103-64 was passed on August 4, establishing the 485,000 acre Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.


  • Public Law 111-11 was passed on March 30. Section 2301 of this law, formally recognized the contributions of Morley Nelson to the establishment of the NCA by renaming it the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. Morley Nelson was a local falconer who in the 1970s and 1980s was instrumental in raising awareness of the significance of the Snake River Canyon for birds of prey, and strongly advocated for its protection.