The voters of Custer and Fremont counties sent a message Tuesday to conservationists, sportsmen and the Obama administration.
They don’t want a national monument in their backyard.
Voters in Custer County, where conservation groups and others are trying to get the Obama administration to designate the Boulder-White Clouds a national monument, voted 1,352-72 in opposition to a monument, about 95 percent. Fremont County voters opposed the designation of any part of Fremont County as a national monument.
The Bush Administration had studied turning a large part of the Island Park Ranger District next to Yellowstone National Park into the Idaho Caldera National Monument. Fremont County had convened a local forum to gather information so it would be prepared if the Obama Administration considered a similar designation under the 1906 Antiquities Act, as several environmental groups have advocated.
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But the county commission backed out of its own study, voted to oppose the monument and authorized the vote. Fremont voters opposed a monument 3,798-305 or 93 percent.
Of course, the Obama administration is still working on a Boulder-White Clouds monument proposal, according to Republican Rep. Mike Simpson, who has asked them to give him some time to send his long-fought Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act to the president for his signature. Simpson has said either his bill will pass or the Obama folks will act.
Sandra Mitchell, who represents motorized recreation groups in Idaho, opposes more wilderness and certainly doesn't want the Obama administration to use the Antiquities Act. But she knows the president can at any time and she wants to be at the table, whether the White House goes the monument route or a new Simpson bill moves forward. Her advice is good for both counties.
"This is too important to walk away from the table," Mitchell said.
Fremont voters appear to have more time. So, its leaders now have their own choice.
Sit down at a table with Caldera monument advocates and develop a locally acceptable or even preferable program to protect the geothermal resources underlying the area that are connected to Yellowstone’s geysers and to promote recreation and economic development opportunities.
Or wait for some future Congress to gut the Antiquities Act. Such a measure passed the House on a slim 222-201 vote in 2014 when it was clear it would never get through the Senate.
Even if a similar measure passed both houses you tell me how much of a chance there is that a Democratic president — or even a Republican president — would give up his or her authority.