Hiking up Ryan or Castle peaks in the White Cloud Mountains is one of life's most exhilarating experiences. In all directions, the view across miles of largely untouched magnificent mountains, lakes and forests is unparalleled and certainly deserves to remain unspoiled.
As the Sawtooth National Recreation Area's leading nonprofit advocate, the Sawtooth Society for many years has supported efforts to provide appropriate long-term protection for the Boulder-White Clouds. Like others who spent much of the past 10 years working closely with Rep. Mike Simpson to obtain such protection, the society is disappointed that Congress has failed to provide permanent wilderness protection for such a deserving area. And, in view of congressional inaction, we appreciate the recent discussions regarding a new approach - seeking protection through a presidential proclamation declaring the area a national monument.
At this point, details of the boundaries, proscriptions, permitted activities and conservation goals proposed for a monument have not been made public, so it is difficult to tell whether the proposal might accomplish the desired goals. However, we trust these will become available soon and look forward to a thoughtful and deliberate public discussion of them.
We also believe such discussion should be open and transparent, involve all legitimate stakeholders, and identify the specific conservation goals of the effort and the best way to achieve them.
Following a careful, collaborative and open process to identify specific goals of a national monument proposal will undoubtedly help ensure that these goals can provide proper protection and that any course of action chosen can lawfully achieve these goals.
As those familiar with this area of law know, no set rules exist on what a presidential proclamation creating a national monument can contain, and a proclamation can have very broad, and unexpected, impact. Since the majority of the Boulder-White Clouds are already within the congressionally directed borders of the Sawtooth NRA, we believe it is imperative that any proposed national monument explicitly preserve the primacy of PL92-400 (the act creating the Sawtooth NRA) in protecting and managing the entire Sawtooth NRA. As used in previous presidential proclamations declaring national monuments that overlap existing protected areas, this approach will help ensure that we avoid confusion or unintended undermining of existing protections.
Because we want to see the years of work that have gone into seeking proper protection for this special place come to successful conclusion, we urge those leading the national monument proposal effort to pursue the course outlined above, and the Sawtooth Society stands ready, willing and able to participate in that public discussion.
The Boulder-White Clouds, like the entire Sawtooth National Recreation Area, deserve no less an effort.
Paul Hill is the president of the Sawtooth Society and lives in Stanley.