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For the week of Dec. 22, 1999 through Dec. 28, 1999

Locals support roadless initiative

Express Staff Writer

d22meet2.jpg (12555 bytes)Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) Ranger Deb Deslaurier (left) and Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson listen patiently as Wood River Valley residents ask questions about the president's roadless initiative. (Express photo by Willy Cook)

The Wood River Valley reaffirmed its status in Idaho as a liberal island amidst a conservative sea Thursday night as close to 75 local residents crowded into Ketchum City Hall to support President Clinton’s roadless initiative.

"It’s time we the people of the U.S., we the people who own this land, become more mature and recognize the importance of unspoiled land," Ketchum resident Dick Meyer said.

In ex-Ketchum mayor Jerry Seiffert’s words, the meeting was a revival gathering for the faithful. Most of the valley’s key environmental activists were present, including Linn Kincannon of the Idaho Conservation League, Lynn Stone of the Boulder White Clouds Council and Jon Marvel of Idaho Watersheds Project.

Only two of the approximately 25 locals who offered comment spoke out against Clinton’s plan, which could protect 40 million acres of U.S. national forest from future road building.

In Idaho, the initiative could protect 9 million acres that do not have roads.

Sawtooth National Forest Ketchum District ranger Kurt Nelson explained that the Forest Service defines a road as a motorized path wider than 50 inches. Many all-terrain vehicle roads would not qualify, Nelson said.

Additionally, Nelson clarified, areas that would be affected are 5,000 acres or larger.

Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) ranger Deb DesLaurier joined Nelson in hosting the hearing. Comments were recorded, to be transposed and then passed up the Forest Service’s chain of command, Nelson said.

Comments are being taken through Dec. 20 to help the Forest Service draft an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on a national level. Two weeks ago, Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo joined Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and others in asking for a 120-day extension of the public comment period.

Thus far, that request has gone unanswered.

In a statement, Crapo charged that the Forest Service is creating a de facto wilderness, an action rightly belonging to Congress.

The draft EIS will be released this spring. Then the Forest Service will seek more public comment in the process before making a final decision—expected in December of 2000.

In hearings around the state, newspapers reported last week, hoards of Idaho residents turned out to either support or protest the initiative. In rural Idaho, miners, loggers and ranchers, in general, spoke out against Clinton’s proposal, while a hearing in Boise was flooded with environmentalists in favor of the measure.

True to Wood River Valley form, some of those who offered comment last Thursday said the President’s plan doesn’t go far enough.

Marvel, who called the plan a "good start," said the Forest Service needs to move on to the removal of most of the agency’s existing roads.

Ketchum resident John Caccia said he envisions "no-human zones," where natural ecosystems are set aside and allowed to take their own course as they did before humans set foot on North America.

"If we really want to protect it, let’s lock it up for 20 years," he said.

At the meeting, the initiative’s opponents argued that the President’s plan will protect land that is not wilderness-quality and is an effort to keep people out of wilderness.

Rosalind Kipping summed the evening up by quoting Shakespeare:

"We are merely players upon the stage, full of sound and signifying nothing," she said.


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