Guest Opinions

Dave Bieter: Economic benefit of Boulder-White Clouds monument is clear

Boise is a city on the rise. The signs of a recovering economy are easy to see: cranes in the sky, new businesses opening their doors, and people filling Boise’s numerous local stores and events. During my time as mayor of this city, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many people about why they relocate their families or start businesses here. Their reasons are as diverse as the people themselves, but one theme occurs again and again: Boise’s place amid natural splendor and the access it provides to world-class outdoor recreation.

After discovering all of the cultural and entertainment options in our city, many of them set amid our gorgeous parks and open spaces, folks often head for the backcountry — places such as the Boulder-White Clouds — to explore the vast range of recreational opportunities and unspeakably beautiful landscapes that are uniquely Idaho.

The blessings bestowed upon our part of the world by nature are a big part of why people of all ages love our city and our state so much. This offers a distinct advantage as we compete with cities throughout the country and the world for talent and investment. That makes our city and its residents key stakeholders in the discussions regarding the fate of the Boulder-White Clouds.

Boiseans value open space and diverse recreational opportunities; it’s evident in nearly every corner of our city. As a community, we have invested in more than 20 miles of greenbelt, 140 miles of trails in 4,000 acres of protected reserves, and 137 parks. There’s something for everyone in Boise’s protected open spaces — outdoor enthusiasts can reach hiking and biking trailheads in minutes; anglers and whitewater kayakers can enjoy a beautiful river in the heart of the city; and wildlife aficionados don’t have to venture far to watch a fox scurrying along a trail or hear hundreds of birds chattering next to a pond in the early morning.

In addition to supporting our mission to be the most livable city in America, our investments in protecting open space have returned to us many times over in economic benefits. Research shows that across the West, investment in protecting public lands can spur faster job growth and higher per-capita income, and we’ve seen that truth in action here. The innovative companies fostering Boise’s economic growth and driving entrepreneurism are able to recruit the talent they need, in part because Boise’s open space and protected lands offer extraordinary recreational opportunities within easy reach. It is a key part of attracting and retaining young professionals, families and people of all ages who seek to lead an active, outdoor lifestyle.

When I had the privilege of meeting President Barack Obama in January, I told him that I personally remain hopeful that congressional action will bring a wilderness bill to his desk — but that without it, a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument should be a top priority for the administration. As it weighs the decision of whether to designate a monument, we hope the Obama administration will see that Idahoans cherish our public lands and protected spaces, assets that distinguish us from so many places around the country, enhancing our economic prospects by increasing our livability. Protecting such a special place for our children and grandchildren to enjoy long into the future simply adds a moral imperative to what is a clear and compelling economic argument for our state.

David H. Bieter is mayor of the city of Boise.