provide models for
"One of the best things I learned is
that we have to button down every issue. We have to cross every t and dot every
i, and make sure we leave very little ambiguity for others to interpret, either
in lawsuits or by agency officials."
ó LINDSAY SLATER, Rep. Mike
Simpsonís chief of staff
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Wilderness designations in the 21st
century are taking on a new guise that appears to be an attempt at tempering
progressive idealism with conservative realism.
One recent model included congressional
wilderness designation of 450,000 acres in 17 road-free islands surrounding Las
Vegas, Nev., in 2002. The legislation simultaneously opened 183,000 acres of
public land for private and municipal development.
Another example entailed appointment in
2000 of Oregonís 170,000-acre Steens Mountain Wilderness, where ranch owners
were paid for properties within the designated area and then given public land
elsewhere on which to rebuild.
Rep. Mike Simpsonís chief of staff,
Lindsay Slater, said a Boulder-White Cloud wilderness bill would be modeled, in
part, on those efforts at compromise.
And Slater knows the drill. As legislative
director for Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., he was the point man on the Steens
However, itís the Nevada legislation that
appears to have captured Slaterís imagination.
"Weíre looking at what happened in Nevada
last year, the Clark County bill. They gave a fair amount of land to the state
to sell," Slater said.
The Clark County Conservation of Public
Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002, which designated small wilderness areas
in the Mojave Desert around Las Vegas, also freed up federal land for private
development and a new airport 30 miles south of the city.
Wilderness advocates had originally asked
for 4.1 million acres, but pared down their request by 10 times to make it more
palatable for wilderness opponents.
As a concession to the hunting community,
the deal also included a condition allowing the Nevada Division of Wildlife to
use trucks and helicopters in the wilderness to survey and capture wildlife and
to maintain artificial watering holes.
The Steens Mountain Wilderness was a
different animal entirely, but might be applicable to the Boulder and White
The Steens Mountain Cooperative Management
and Protection Act of 2000, in addition to designating 170,000 acres of
wilderness, authorized $5 million to purchase ranch in-holdings, as well as the
trade of 104,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management property for the displaced
The Nature Conservancy-Idaho is working
with Simpsonís office to potentially move existing livestock operations near the
White Cloud Mountains "to a more secure base," said Geoff Pampush, TNC-Idaho
"In particular, weíre in conversations
with landowners in the East Fork, but itís actually much broader than that,"
Pampush said. "What weíre looking to do is potentially identify new operations
for some of the existing ranchers in the upper Salmon basin. In order to make
that work, we may have to buy the ranches of the impacted ranchers and then
identify a ranch for them to acquire and help them acquire it."
The motivation for designation of a Steens
Mountain Wilderness was different from current efforts in the Boulder and White
Cloud Mountains, Slater said. Efforts there stemmed from a defensive posture
assumed when former President Bill Clintonís interior secretary announced plans
to designate the area as a 3 million-acre national monument.
"We decided there could be a better
alternative," Slater said.
In return for supporting wilderness
protection, ranchers were also permitted to graze cattle in parts of the
wilderness, and they are allowed to drive into the area to check fences and
Of his experience with the Steens Mountain
bill, Slater said he learned, above all else, to be meticulous.
"One of the best things I learned is that
we have to button down every issue," he said. "We have to cross every t and dot
every i, and make sure we leave very little ambiguity for others to interpret,
either in lawsuits or by agency officials."