Letters from the West

Celebrating Idaho wilderness: A book, a City Club award to Boulder-White Cloud architects

Republican Rep. Mike Simpson and Idaho Conservation League Director Rick Johnson lounge at Chamberlain Lake in the White Clouds Wilderness in August after hiking into the area they helped protect.
Republican Rep. Mike Simpson and Idaho Conservation League Director Rick Johnson lounge at Chamberlain Lake in the White Clouds Wilderness in August after hiking into the area they helped protect. rbarker@idahostatesman.com

Following a divisive and often troubling election, many of us would like to seek the quiet of Idaho wilderness to find our path forward.

A little more than a year ago the Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill became a symbol of how we can engage together and find solutions among people of many viewpoints. Honoring that accomplishment and spirit, the City Club of Boise announced Friday that is is recognizing two of the partners who made that bill a reality after more than 40 years with City Club’s Stimpson Award for Civic Engagement.

This is a good season for celebrating Idaho wilderness. A new book about wilderness has just been published by the Idaho Humanities Council, with a signing set for Nov. 19 until 1 pm at Rediscovered Books during Saturday Market.

Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson and Idaho Conservation League Director Rick Johnson will receive the Stimpson award at a City Club lunch forum Dec. 9 at the Boise Centre. The two men will share the story of how they came together and how the bill creating 275,665 acres of new wilderness was finally passed unanimously and signed by President Obama.

Johnson and Simpson each have essays in the Humanities book, Idaho Wilderness Considered.

In selecting Simpson and Johnson, Boise City Club cited the risks the two men took with their reputations and careers in taking on a controversial and often unpopular project, and standing up to opposition from sometimes even their own supporters. City Club also notes that their work is a model for how Idahoans and Americans can find resolution on divisive environmental and political issues.

The award recognizes those whose work exemplifies the spirit of City Club founder Dottie Stimpson, who with her husband Ed believed that no problem is so great that it can’t be solved by people with open minds who practice civil discourse.

For 2016, City Club is celebrating its 20-year history as an organization dedicated to promoting dialogue, practicing civil discourse and providing access to newsmakers. This year’s Stimpson Award and forum is the capstone event in the City Club’s yearlong Civility Project.

The lunch forum begins at 11:45 a.m. in the new fourth-floor east ballroom at the Boise Centre. Registration is required; deadline is noon, Wednesday, Dec. 7. To register, visit cityclubofboise.org.


The Idaho Humanities Council’s new book is an anthology of essays by more than two dozen Idahoans exploring the meaning of wilderness to Idaho. Full disclosure: I wrote one of the essays in the book, on wildness vs. wilderness.

Edited by Boise environmental attorney Murray Feldman and Ketchum Community Library Director Jennifer Emery Davidson, the book includes essays, photos and other reflections commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and the establishment the White Cloud, Hemingway and Jim McClure/Jerry Peak Wildernesses in Simpson’s bill.

The book features an interview with former Gov. Cecil Andrus, a giant in conservation who played a pivotal role in the White Clouds and wilderness in Idaho since 1970. It book explores how and why wilderness matter to the very character of the state. It charts the conversations, political negotiations and personal journeys that have influenced — and been influenced by — Idaho’s wild places.

Other contributors include Wilderness Society Regional Director Craig Gehrke, who reflects on his conservation advocacy; novelist Judith Freeman, who tells a story of living with bears in Salmon River country; Idaho historian Marty Peterson, remembering the legacy of Sen. Frank Church; writers and hikers Bill Johnson, Mike Medberry and Nicole Lefavour on their love of being in the wild; journalist Mark Trahant, remembering fishing with his family on the Yankee Fork of the Salmon; and scholars Lisa Brady, John Freemuth, Rochelle Johnson, Scott Slovic, Alan Marshall and Adam Sowards. Sawtooth National Recreation Area backcountry manager Ed Cannady supplies a section of gorgeous Boulder-White Clouds photos. My Statesman colleague Katherine Jones contributed the book’s beautiful cover photo of Castle Peak.


You can get “Idaho Wilderness Reconsidered” at Boise’s Rediscovered Books; at the Idaho Humanities Council website; or by calling (208) 345-5346. The City Club tentatively plans a book signing in conjunction with the Dec. 9 Stimpson Award event.

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker