Mountain bikers would continue to have access to Ants Basin and Castle Divide in a Boulder-White Clouds national monument under a pact that, at least for now, ends a clash between conservationists and the growing legion of backcountry bikers.
Representatives of the Idaho Conservation League, Wood River Bicycle Coalition, International Mountain Bicycling Association and The Wilderness Society worked for months on a proposal that they will present to the Obama administration to designate 500,000 acres of roadless area as a national monument under the 1906 Antiquities Act.
On Tuesday the president designated the 1,665-acre Point Arena-Stornetta nature preserve on Californias coast as a national monument. The Washington Post said the move signals a more robust environmental agenda, and specifically cited the administrations interest in Idahos Boulder-White Clouds as a potential area for protection. The mountains lie east of Stanley and Idaho 75, and north of Ketchum.
The deal creates zones where wilderness characteristics would be preserved while continuing mountain bike access in the popular area north of Sun Valley.
The groups recommendation to Obama takes as its primary goal preserving public use in largely the same way and in the same condition that it is today.
The Boulder-White Clouds is a spectacular landscape, and its valued for many reasons, Brett Stevenson, executive director of the Wood River Bicycle Coalition in Hailey, said in a news release. It warrants national monument protection, and that protection can and should balance wilderness character with mountain biking and other forms of low-impact recreation that are compatible with conservation objectives.
The deal recommends a mix of wilderness-level protections for important watersheds in high alpine lake basins and the high peaks of the White Clouds Mountains. Wilderness protection, in general, prohibits machines and mechanized travel, including bicycles.
Areas that would not have wilderness-level protection are travel corridors such as Castle Divide which has views of Castle Peak and Ants Basin, which leads to Born Lake.
Both of those key areas were included as wilderness in Republican Rep. Mike Simpsons Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, which would have preserved 330,000 acres of wilderness in three sections of the roadless area. The groups noted that they are pushing for monument status in the absence of action at the congressional level.
The Boulder-White Clouds have extraordinary wilderness values and world-class recreational access, said Rick Johnson, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League. We are working together to protect both.
The agreement is aimed at stopping further erosion of protections and letting the area be used in largely the same way and in the same condition that it is today, the groups said. Nearly as significant, the deal ends a clash between preservationists and mountain bikers, a growing group of users.
I have watched for a decade with both trepidation and great hope, as our collective communities navigated a challenging yet important task of finding common ground on how to manage this iconic landscape, said Michael Van Abel, president of the International Mountain Bicycling Association. I am pleased to see that in todays often divisive atmosphere, we have reached an agreeable solution and can stand united on what the future of the Boulder-White Clouds should look like.
The inclusion of the powerful Wilderness Society, which has lobbied for more than 100 million acres of U.S. wilderness over the decades, is significant.
This agreement represents one of the best things about conservation in Idaho people with diverse views rolling up their sleeves to work together, said Craig Gehrke, the Societys Idaho director.
Rocky Barker: 377-6484