Guest Opinion: Area deserves protection; coalition working hard

GUEST OPINION: BOULDER-WHITE CLOUDS

June 11, 2014 

Sportsmen for Boulder-White Clouds commends the sportsmen, citizens and businesses that rallied in support of the creation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico. The president signed a proclamation creating the monument on May 21 in response to local demand to see the area protected.

The new monument has overwhelming support from local sportsmen because it preserves hunting opportunities in the area and conserves wildlife habitat for mule deer, pronghorn antelope, mountain lions and upland game birds. Approximately 15 sportsmen's groups supported the monument, including Trout Unlimited and the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. The monument will be managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Sportsmen for Boulder-White Clouds is building a similar coalition of hunting and angling groups to support a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument here in Idaho - one that keeps our access open and our opportunities genuine. Idaho Wildlife Federation, Fly Fishers of Idaho, Ada County Fish and Game League, and Idaho Chukar Foundation are members of the coalition and are leading the charge to gain permanent protections for this one-of-a-kind place.

Why are we doing it? Because the Boulder-White Clouds contain world-class wildlife habitat, supporting eight big game species, including bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk and antelope. It is also home to the highest-altitude spawning habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead anywhere in the world. It's a sportsmen's paradise but it's not being managed as sportsmen's paradise.

That is why multiple generations of Idahoans have worked to protect this area. From former Gov. Cecil Andrus, a supporter of the current monument campaign, to U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, who has legislation before Congress, Idahoans, regardless of political affiliation, realize that the Boulder-White Clouds is a treasure.

Simpson's bill, the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, was a laudable effort for greater protections. But the simple fact is, wilderness bills in Congress are going nowhere, at least not right now. Since 2004, six bills have been introduced by Representative Simpson, and all have been killed by congressional gridlock. The time is now to bypass a dysfunctional Congress and get this done ourselves.

A diverse coalition of groups supports the creation of a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument. The proposal consists of approximately 592,000 acres, encompassing some of the best backcountry areas to hunt and fish in Idaho. More than 500 sportsmen have signed a petition in support of the monument designation on our website at www.sportsmenforbwc.org.

We are hoping that Department of Interior and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials visit the Boulder-White Clouds this summer to hear from us first-hand why the area deserves protection. We'd like to see the administration listen to sportsmen in Idaho, too, and take the next steps toward a monument proclamation.

Hunters and anglers know full well that nothing lasts forever. Over and over, we have seen our hunting and fishing areas fall prey to mismanagement, overdevelopment or ill-thought land swaps. A monument proclamation would give certainty that this landscape will be passed on intact to our kids and their kids. As we move full-steam into the 21st century, we can't predict what threats will rise to alter our beloved hunting grounds. Better to be prepared and proactively protect our cherished places to hunt, fish and camp today.

The Boulder-White Clouds area deserves to be permanently protected to ensure that it will remain open to hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation, and Idaho's outdoor heritage will thrive for future Americans.

Gibson, of Boise, is a hunter, angler and the outreach coordinator for Sportsmen for Boulder-White Clouds.

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