Friday, January 23, 2015

Rep. Simpson Scales Down, Reboots Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness Proposal

Posted By on Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge During President Barack Obama's Jan. 21 visit to Boise, demonstrators hoped to get his attention and support for the creation of a Boulder-White Clouds national monument. - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • During President Barack Obama's Jan. 21 visit to Boise, demonstrators hoped to get his attention and support for the creation of a Boulder-White Clouds national monument.

When President Barack Obama landed in Boise Jan. 20, many hoped his speech at Boise State University might include the mention of a designated national monument at the Boulder-White Clouds. Several demonstrators from the Idaho Conservation League and Conservation Voters for Idaho tried to get the President's attention and support with signs and posters that read "Get Loud For the Clouds." 

Kate Thorpe of Conservation Voters for Idaho even told Boise State Public Radio, "We're trying to position ourselves in a spot so that no matter where he were to enter that building, you could see our crowd."

To their disappointment, Obama's speech didn't even mention open spaces, but Rep. Mike Simpson still has his sights on some sort of protection for the Boulder-White Clouds. According to the Idaho Mountain Express, Simpson has created a new, scaled-down wilderness proposal for the area, and he plans to take it to Congress.

Last week, Rep. Simpson met with a Blaine County commissioner, the mayor of Ketchum and the Stanley City Council President in Stanley, as well as with Custer County commissioners  to present his new proposal.

The proposal keeps the Sawtooth National Recreation Area intact and creates three separate wilderness areas throughout the Boulder-White Clouds: White Clouds, Jerry Peak and Hemingway-Boulder, which total 295,960 acres—
click to enlarge At President Obama's speech, Sara Arkle of the Idaho Conservation League told Boise Weekly she hoped the "Boulder-White Clouds gets some protection." - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • At President Obama's speech, Sara Arkle of the Idaho Conservation League told Boise Weekly she hoped the "Boulder-White Clouds gets some protection."
almost 37,000 acres less than Simpson's 2004 proposal, the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, or CIEDRA.  

The proposal also keeps the Germania and Little Boulder Creek areas out of wilderness and open to motorized vehicles. The Fourth of July trail was originally proposed to be closed to mountain biking under CIEDRA, but the new proposal lets it stay open.

Idaho Mountain Express reported that Custer County Commission Chair Wayne Butts called the new wilderness proposal the "lesser of two evils," when compared to the designation of a national monument. He said that although they believe there's already enough wilderness in the county, they "would not say no" to this new proposal. 

"At least we know what that one says," Butts told the newspaper. 

Sen. Jim Risch was much of the reason why CIEDRA failed before, but a spokesperson for Risch said the senator is working with Simpson in the creation of an alternative bill.

The environmental groups pushing for a national monument are skeptical that even a watered-down version of a wilderness bill could pass a Republican-dominated Congress. 

"We're working on a monument because [a wilderness bill] has failed, and I don't see it succeeding now," ICL executive director Rick Johnson told the Express.

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