A pact for Boulder-White Clouds

National monument proposal allows more access than Simpson’s wilderness plan did

rbarker@idahostatesman.comMarch 12, 2014 

0516 out trailheads 3

The trailhead at Little Casino Campground leads to White Clouds lakes and destinations.

PETE ZIMOWSKY — Pete Zimowsky

  • About national monuments

    How does it work?

    The Antiquities Act of 1906, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, gives presidents the power to preserve special places without a vote of Congress. Roosevelt used it to protect the Grand Canyon (now a national park) and 17 other sites in the West. Sixteen presidents have created 136 national monuments.

    President Barack Obama has used the Antiquities Act 10 times to establish national monuments without congressional approval.

    How many monuments are in Idaho?

    Three: Craters of the Moon National Monument near Arco, created by Calvin Coolidge, with an addition, Craters of the Moon National Preserve, created by Bill Clinton; Minidoka National Monument near Rupert, created by Clinton; and Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, created by Congress. Congress also established the Nez Perce National Historic Preserve, a series of sites along the trail of the tribe's 1877 retreat; and the City of Rocks National Reserve in Southeast Idaho.

    What is wilderness?

    Designated wilderness is land closed by Congress to logging, roads and motorized or mechanized transportation under the Wilderness Act of 1964. Idaho has 12 wilderness areas.

    What’s happening with the proposed Idaho monument?

    Obama administration officials have said they want to meet with communities and evaluate possible monuments, including the Boulder-White Clouds. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Boise in May, and Vilsack confirmed that interest.

    Some counties, such as Lemhi County, oppose a national monument designation.

    What happened to CIEDRA?

    Republican Rep. Mike Simpson spent more than a decade pushing his Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, which included wilderness protection for more than 300,000 acres of the 760,000-acre Boulder-White Clouds roadless area. That proposal never won support from Gov. Butch Otter or Sen. Jim Risch and has been given up for dead in Congress.

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 California’s coast as a national monument. The Washington Post said the move signals a more robust environmental agenda, and specifically cited the administration’s interest in Idaho’s 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 it’s 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 Simpson’s 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 today’s 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 Society’s Idaho director.

Rocky Barker: 377-6484

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service