The proposal to turn the Boulder-White Clouds into a national monument is an empty page so far. Proponents like the Idaho Conservation League and the Wilderness Society have laid out some parameters, but have not supplied maps or details. That has caused people who are generally satisfied with the status quo to express fears and concerns.
This lack of clarity has been by design so far, said ICL Executive Director Rick Johnson. Proponents have wanted to show that they are listening to the conversation, not just selling their own plan.
The Sawtooth Society, a group formed by supporters of the 1972 legislation that created the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, surprised everyone a week ago with a full page ad expressing fears of unintended consequences of a national monument designation and a call for President Obama to preserve the sanctity of Public Law 92-400. It suggests that despite spotty funding, poorly written easements and inconsistent Forest Service support for its park-like status, the SNRA is widely considered to have been a tremendous success since its founding more than 40 years ago.
Obama could establish a national monument in the area with a simple signature on a proclamation under the Antiquities Act of 1906.
Some of the proponents of a national monument including Craig Gehrke, Idaho representative of the Wilderness Society have suggested President Obama consider designating the entire SNRA as a national monument. Others just want the Boulder-White Clouds and the Jerry Peak area, which is outside of the SNRA.
No one has suggested the National Park Service take it over. No one has suggested overriding Public Law 92-400. John Freemuth, a Boise State University political science professor and scholar on national monuments, said he believes any contradiction in a monument proclamation to 92-400 would likely be challenged in court.
But the Sawtooth Society is still worried. It had a lawyer write up language that could be inserted into the proclamation creating a monument.
Ironically, it is the same approach the Society took when Republican Rep. Mike Simpson was developing his Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, which included wilderness protection for the Boulder-White Clouds. The group withheld support until the language was in the bill.
So what would be the unintended consequences? Perhaps a flood of visitors to the awesomely scenic mountains, meadows and valleys of the upper Salmon River, the group said in a press release.
Loving the area to death would put unacceptable pressure on precious natural and recreational resources, said Paul Hill, president of the Sawtooth Society.
Contrast its approach to the Wood River Bike Coalition. This group wants more mountain bike access than even Simpsons bill provided.
But after talks with Johnson the coalition came out in favor of a national monument, confident it could work with proponents.
The Sawtooth Society wouldnt go that far but it did not want to leave the impression it is against a national monument. The stakes are too great to make a mistake in considering the question of whether or not to confer monument status on the area, said Sawtooth Society Executive Director Gary OMalley. Lets come together and get it right.
The Society still supports Simpsons bill. That raises the question, is there still hope for CIEDRA?
Some folks are suggesting that the threat of the monument may clear a path for Simpsons legislation. Republican Sen. Mike Crapo, who had pushed for wilderness protection for the Boulder-White Clouds since the early 1990s, is the only other member of the Idaho delegation who supports Simpson.
Sen. Jim Risch pulled his support for the bill and Gov. Butch Otter has steadfastly opposed all new wilderness in the state. They and Rep. Raul Labrador, all Republicans, oppose a national monument.
We are aware there is considerable concern about a monument designation, said Crapos communications director Lindsay Nothern.
Right now not only do we have a recalcitrant Congress, we have a split delegation and we have a governor opposing us, said Gehrke. I dont see how we put all that together again.
Johnson said he will roll out ICLs proposal soon and he hopes it will be a starting point. But for the near future, the choice is going to be for the status quo or a national monument.
© 2013 Idaho Statesman
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