Letters from the West

Andrus spent his life protecting this iconic Idaho wilderness; now it will carry his name

Cecil Andrus saved Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains from an open-pit mine, and it helped him get elected governor in 1970.

Now, seven months after his death at age 85, the White Clouds Wilderness will carry his name.

The spending bill that passed the Senate late Thursday and is now before President Trump includes a provision to rename 90,769 acres of craggy peaks, mountain lakes and forests the Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness. It passed despite a last-minute effort by Andrus’ long time political rival Jim Risch to pull it from the bill.

Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson led the fight to protect the area as part of a 275,000-acre wilderness package that President Barack Obama signed in 2015.

“It is only fitting that this iconic land in Idaho is forever tied to the man who dedicated his public service to protecting it,” Simpson said.

Andrus fought to stop Asarco Corp. from replacing iconic Castle Peak with an open-pit molybdenum mine in the heart of the White Cloud Mountains during his successful campaign for governor in 1970. That effort led to the establishment of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in 1972.

“Dad viewed the White Clouds as one of Idaho’s crown jewels,” said Tracy Andrus, Cecil’s daughter. “To receive this, he would have been honored and humbled.”

Andrus went on to become Idaho’s longest-serving governor, with a stint as the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior in between his four terms.

As Interior secretary under President Jimmy Carter in 1980, Andrus engineered public-land protections for 25 percent of Alaska, including 104.3 million acres of new parks, wilderness and wildlife refuges.

Tracy Andrus said the Andrus family will be “eternally grateful to Rep. Simpson for making this happen.”

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker