Letters from the West

Eyes on Senate this week to see if Simpson’s wilderness bill passes

Greenwire's Phil Taylor quotes an aide to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he will try to pass Idaho Republican Mike Simpson's Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill this week by unanimous consent before the Senate adjourns for its August recess. But he said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz may put a hold on the bill and keep that from happening.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee sent the bill to the floor Thursday, which would protect 275,000 acres as wilderness in the White Clouds, Boulders and Jerry Peak areas of central Idaho.The bill has the support of a diverse list of groups, 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, the Sierra Club and the Idaho Recreation Council, which represents motorcycle and snowmobile riders.

Interestly, the Washington D.C. Public Television station ran Idaho Public Television’s show on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act last weekend, which included a long section about the Boulder-White Clouds.

Taylor told Rick Johnson’s story of how Simpson asked former Obama White House counselor John Podesta to put off the creation of a larger national monument in the area for six months at a wilderness gala in September so he had time to pass his bill. Podesta didn’t respond until he gave his speech and said Obama planned more monuments so Simpson better hurry up.

So if the bill doesn’t pass this week expect to see some movement on the monument since Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said such a designation wouldn’t come before he talks to Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and before they have a meeting in Idaho.