Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson is not a supporter of the Antiquities Act of 1906 that gives the president power to set aside public lands as national monuments.
He opposed President Clinton’s expansion of the Craters of the Moon National Monument in 2000. But once done, Simpson sponsored legislation that turned the added lands into the Craters of the Moon National Preserve, so hunting would be allowed.
He has not been as adamant as others in his opposition to the Antiquities Act. He did not join Rep. Raul Labrador in sponsoring a bill that would amend it to exclude Idaho from additional national monuments.
When Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina, added an amendment in April to the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 that would require state legislatures and governors to sign off on any national monument designations, Simpson voted against it. He did vote for the final bill, which got bipartisan support.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, are strong supporters of limits to the Antiquities Act. They cornered Simpson to ask him what was up.
Simpson recounted for a Redfish Lake Lodge crowd of wilderness advocates his reply: “I might have to ask the president to designate the Boulder-White Clouds because I can’t get a hearing in your committees.”
When he said it, Nikki Watts, his press secretary, winced. Simpson smiled.
Former Interior Secretary and Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus called on the conservationists at the conference to flood the White House with letters supporting a national monument designation of the 500,000-acre Boulder-White Clouds, which is the largest roadless area left in the national forest system outside Alaska. Andrus won his first election for governor in 1970 campaigning to stop a mine at Castle Peak in the White Clouds.
“We’ve worked on this for 40 years,” Andrus said. “The time has come and the time is now.”
Simpson said Utah’s Bishop asked why Simpson couldn’t release some of the roadless area to multiple-use management as a part of his Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, his compromise proposal to create a Boulder-White wilderness. “I told him I’ll release 132,000 acres,” Simpson said.
He said he had told Bishop that many times before.
The bill would protect more than 330,000 acres as wilderness, where no motorized use or development would be allowed. For years Simpson has pushed his bill as a compromise in a roadless area criss-crossed by trails for motorized use. If Obama were to designate it a national monument, he might include the entire 500,000 acres or more.
Simpson said he has many alternatives to the Antiquities Act to protect the area he’s worked on for more than a decade. He is confident his Boulder-White Clouds plan can be added to a future lands bill or an appropriations bill.
“Obviously, the Antiquities Act can work, but I’d rather have wilderness,” Simpson said. “I can’t tell you I’d favor using the Antiquities Act.”
Andrus has none of those qualms. President Jimmy Carter got the Alaska Land Act passed in 1980 after he had first designated millions of acres of Alaska a national monument upon the recommendation of then-Interior Secretary Andrus, who thinks President Obama could use the same leverage to pass Simpson’s bill in Idaho.
Politically, the designation would bring strong applause from the environmental community and might help Obama in states like Colorado and even Nevada.
“The president has nothing to lose from this,” Andrus said.
Rocky Barker: 377-6484