Letters from the West

Boulder-White Clouds memorial sends united message

Leadore Republican Rep. Merrill Beyeler’s first act in his freshman year was to push for a memorial about the Boulder-White Clouds National Monument proposed in his district.

Nothing controversial about that place.

The Idaho House Thursday approved the memorial unanimously. Contrast that vote with another memorial that already has been approved by the Idaho Legislature that opposes an Idaho Yellowstone Caldera National Monument. Ten of the 13 Democrats opposed it and the Senate passed it on a voice vote.

The difference was that Beyeler, a rancher, rewrote the Boulder-White Clouds memorial to satisfy all of the interests with language from the Idaho Farm Bureau, Custer County and the Idaho Conservation League.

Instead of simply opposing a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument, the memorial calls on the Obama Administration and Congress to embrace a collaborative process that includes Idahoans. Beyeler took his unique approach to the issue because a memorial from the Idaho Legislature is aimed at the nation’s leaders in Washington D.C.

The bill recognizes that 65 percent of Custer County voters came to the polls in 2014 and voted 95 percent against the monument and of the importance of ranching to the area. It also recognizes the obvious, Democratic President Barack Obama has the power to establish a national monument simply by signing a proclamation. Sending a memorial back to the Democratic administration where the Democrats clearly aren’t on board, undercuts its power and message.

"Representative Beyeler went to every stakeholder," said Democratic Rep. Mat Erpelding of Boise. "He removed five words for me."

Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson, along with Republican Sen. Jim Risch, have introduced rewritten bills to protect wilderness in the Boulder-White Clouds that has gotten much of the local support Beyeler’s memorial demands. But Congress’s inability to pass almost anything still leaves the potential that the question will be in the hands of President Obama and his administration.

Most observers expect him to act if Congress doesn't.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said two years ago that there would be no Boulder-White Clouds Monument without discussions with local and state officials. The administration has pledged to Simpson six months of leeway to see if his bill will pass.

“If we’re going to have a seat at the table our voice is going to have to be really united on what we want to do,” Beyeler said.