The analogy of baseball season and the progress of Rep. Mike Simpson’s bill to protect the Boulder-White Clouds are eerily similar.
After breaking spring training, Simpson’s H.R. 1138 — the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act — opened the season and the 2015 Congressional session with the kind of mixed reviews the Chicago Cubs get.
Even though there was steadfast support from Idaho colleague Sen. Jim Risch and a growing list of jurisdictions and stakeholder groups, a collection of boo birds scoffed at the prospect of anybody finding a consensus in an age of gridlock and political grind. Some who might have supported it could never imagine Simpson or anybody else getting Congress to behave and get something done — especially if it involved designating something as wilderness, an extremely restrictive status.
We are, and always have been, believers that Simpson’s long dedication to finding a way to bring added protection to this Central Idaho jewel of nature would pay off. We have cheered him on all the way.
Many detractors have variously doubted, some even switching back and forth between Simpson’s team and another — the idea of a National Monument for a larger tract with likely different rules of engagement and as-yet-to-be defined conceptions.
Well, on Monday, Team Simpson got a runner to second base in likely his last at bat in the final inning of what has been a long, long game with extra innings. It is going to take a bit more offense to get him and H.R. 1138 home.
It is tempting to pause and marvel at the somewhat moral victory of the U.S. House of Representatives passing legislation to create wilderness — 295,960 acres all told between the Boulder-White Clouds and the Jerry Peak areas. A Republican dominated chamber allowing for the creation of wilderness? Somewhat stunning. That is a hit for Simpson.
But with each threshold of progress, Simpson’s bill is presented with a new challenge. Could this pass in the Senate? It seems a lot to ask from a chamber that is not exactly playing team ball at the moment, some calling leadership “liars” and others distracted by the Big Leagues of the White House.
Risch and Sen. Mike Crapo must lobby their Senate colleagues all the more now on Simpson’s behalf. And it would not hurt if Rep. Raul Labrador could see his way clear to whisper encouragement to Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a frequent legislative teammate of Labrador’s in the other chamber.
We agree with Simpson that his bill has the most broad-based support and is the truest example of an Idaho solution to protecting the region. Though some stakeholder groups are holdouts — mountain bikers come to mind — we feel their argument is more with the concept of wilderness than with Simpson.
So, here’s hoping Simpson and the art of collaboration and compromise can finally produce a win for all of Idaho and be an example that Congress can score when it wants to.
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