Republican Rep. Mike Simpson’s bill to protect three areas in the Boulder-White Cloud mountains will get a vote Thursday in the House Natural Resources Committee.
Meanwhile, a group of mountain bike industry advocates, the Sierra Club and the Outdoor Alliance are rallying in Ketchum and riding in the Boulder-White Clouds this week to promote a 591,800-acre national monument instead of the wilderness bill Simpson has sought for 15 years. The bill would designate 275,665 acres in the Boulder and White Cloud mountains and the Jerry Peak area of central Idaho as wilderness.
The bill has the support of a long, diverse list of groups supporting it including the Sawtooth Society, the Custer County Commission, East Fork of the Salmon River Ranchers, the Idaho Farm Bureau, the Idaho Cattle Association, Idaho Outfitters and Guides, the Pew Charitable Trust, the Idaho Conservation League, the Wilderness Society and the Idaho Recreation Council, which represents motorcycle and snowmobile riders. But Republican Rep. Raul Labrador said at a hearing on the bill in June that the motorized and agriculture groups only support the bill because of the threat of President Barack Obama proclaiming the much larger area as a national monument.
That’s exactly what the mountain bike groups and other non motorized recreation groups hope happens.
“We find ourselves having to fight a bill that would close important bike trails, with fewer protections for the landscape than could be achieved through a monument,” said Aaron Clark, International Mountain Biking Association conservation manager.
The mountain bikers want two alpine trails they use in the White Clouds left open, Ants Basin and Castle Divide. They have sought an amendment that would places them back in the bill.
But Republicans and some of the groups now supporting the bill wanted an amendment that would stop future national monument designations in the area. Simpson has said he would not support the bill with any amendments after years of changes. Republican Sen. Jim Risch, who with Sen. Mike Crapo supports the bill, said Simpson has achieved a delicate balance.
The bill was added to the markup list of non-controversial bills that would not be amended Monday.