Express Staff Writer
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 Clintons roadless initiative.
"Its 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 Seifferts words, the meeting was a
revival gathering for the faithful. Most of the valleys 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 Clintons 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
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 Services 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 decisionexpected
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 Clintons 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 Presidents plan doesnt 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 agencys 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, lets lock it up for 20
years," he said.
At the meeting, the initiatives opponents argued that the
Presidents 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.