Hiking & Trails

Two years after Cecil Andrus’ death, an Idaho wilderness area now bears his name

More than two years after his death, an Idaho politician’s name is finally part of the wilderness area he fought so hard to protect.

Last week, staff from the Idaho Conservation League and volunteers with the Central Idaho Wilderness stewardship program installed more than a dozen signs to mark the Cecil D. Andrus - White Clouds Wilderness.

Andrus, a Democrat who was Idaho’s longest-serving governor, died in August 2017, leaving a legacy of love for Idaho’s wild places. In 2018, Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson added a provision to an omnibus spending bill that would add Andrus’ name to the White Clouds Wilderness, which was designated in 2015 in large part thanks to both Andrus’ and Simpson’s support. Despite opposition from Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch, the bill passed — but at the Central Idaho wilderness area, nothing happened.

According to a news release from the Idaho Conservation League, the Forest Service didn’t have the funds or manpower to install updated signs bearing Andrus’ name. Craig Gehrke, of the Wilderness Society, and Andy Brunelle, a Forest Service coordinator and former Andrus staffer, raised about $8,000 to create the signs.

Betsy Mizell, director of the Idaho Conservation League’s Central Idaho office, helped collect the funds and coordinate efforts to install the signs. From Oct. 6 to Oct. 8, the group of staff and volunteers hiked the borders of the wilderness area to erect signs at six different locations.

“The Cecil D. Andrus - White Clouds Wilderness is such a beautiful area in Central Idaho,” Mizell said in the news release. “It’s fitting that it bears Andrus’ name because he did so much to protect these and other public lands throughout Idaho and the U.S.”

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Nicole Blanchard is the Idaho Statesman’s outdoors reporter. She grew up in Idaho, graduated from Idaho State University and Northwestern University and frequents the trails around Boise as much as she can.