Business owners voice wilderness
135 letters for protection
Boulder-White Clouds mailed
"The worldís population is doubling in
the life expectancy of one person. Itís our obligation to do what we can to
protect wild areas in Idaho."
ó ERIK BOE, Financial consultant
with A.G. Edwards
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
In Central Idaho, where a significant part
of the regionís economic engine is driven by tourism, many business owners are
rallying behind wilderness designation for the Boulder and White Cloud
Potential wilderness designation in the
Boulder and White Cloud mountains received additional support this week when
business owners from throughout Idaho sent letters to Rep. Mike Simpson,
R-Idaho, urging protection of the region as wildereness. A.G. Edwards Financial
Consultant Erik Boe, left, and Ketchum photographer Steve Snyder were among
those supporting the congressmanís effort. Express photos by David N. Seelig
By Tuesday morning, 135 business owners
from throughout Idaho had signed letters of support for wilderness designation
in the two mountain ranges. The Idaho Conservation League, which is coordinating
the drive, planned to send the letters to the congressman Thursday afternoon.
"People just want to make sure he knows
this support is here," said Kathryn Goldman, ICL conservation associate. "People
are really jazzed about being a part of it, so it has just kind of built on
According to the numbers, wildlands do
According to the Idaho Department of Fish
and Game, wildlife-based recreation in the state generates more than $1 billion
annually. That hefty revenue stream includes hunting, fishing and wildlife
viewing, which increased 63 percent between 1980 and 1995.
The Outdoor Industry Association estimates
that consumers spent $40 million on outdoor equipment, not including skiing,
snowboarding or motorized equipment, in Idaho in 2001.
According to the Outdoor Industry
Foundation, Idaho ranks third nationally in the number of participants in
non-motorized outdoor activities, with 306,256 participants, or 31.6 percent of
the stateís population.
"Sales of athletic and outdoor merchandise
for the human-powered outdoor recreation industry are holding steady even during
difficult economic times," said Andy Munter, co-owner of Backwoods Mountain
Sports in Ketchum. "Protecting wilderness is an important component of an
economic strategy that will lead to a more diverse, more stable and more
prosperous local economy and a brighter future for Idaho children."
A handful of local business leaders
gathered at Thomas Mengelsenís Images of Nature gallery in Ketchum on Thursday,
Jan. 29, to trumpet the boons of wilderness.
"Wilderness is good for business," said
Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Carol Waller.
"This is a resort, tourism economy. It is driven by people who come to enjoy
what we have to offer. We have the wilderness, which is what draws people."
Designation of more wilderness can only
help, Waller said.
At issue are roughly 500,000 acres of
contiguous, road-free wildlands stretching between Ketchum and the Custer County
cities of Stanley and Challis. Since issuing a pledge in 1999 to work on a
wilderness bill for the Boulder and White Cloud mountains, Simpson has been
testing the political waters and working to draft a bill he can release for
According to Lindsay Slater, Simpsonís
chief of staff, the congressmanís proposal will not include the total road-free
acreage, but will be designed to appeal to a wide array of interest groups.
Idaho business owners who wrote Simpson
this week want to make sure he knows the effort has their support.
"I urge him to support the Idaho
Conservation Leagueís Boulder White Clouds designation," said Chris Williams,
owner of Williams Market in Ketchum. "It is important to protect the
Boulder-White Clouds, protect our quality of life, protect our businesses and,
most importantly, protect this special place in Idaho for future generations."
Erik Boe, a financial consultant with A.G.
Edwards, said it is important for people to realize that individual small
efforts can help accomplish large goals.
"Everybodyís got to give a little bit," he
said. "If everybody gives a little, we all gain a lot."
Boe, also an avid mountain biker, said he
is willing to give up his rides in the White Cloud Mountains in exchange for
increased protection of the land.
"I believe that designating the
Boulder-White Cloud area as wilderness can translate directly into a healthier
economic and ecological union for the people and critters of Blaine and Custer
counties," he said. "Wilderness draws people to our area, and we should all be
proud to support protection of the Boulder-White Clouds."
Williams said he is always excited to give
Wood River Valley visitors directions to nearby wild places.
"I am always thrilled to oblige these new
visitors, and I am literally beside myself with excitement knowing that these
new visitors to my state are about to embark on an experience so unique that
they will never forget it and quite likely be back to experience it again,"
According to Goldman, business owners from
throughout the state have signed on to support wilderness designation in the
region. About 40 percent of the letters ICL has collected are from Wood River
Valley businesses. Others come from Stanley, Idaho Falls, Pocatello and
Sandpoint, to name a few.
"Itís taken a little while to build
momentum," Goldman said. "Most are busy people running small businesses, but it
continues to build momentum."
Ketchum photographer Steve Snyder said he
has not yet become formally engaged in the drive for more wilderness. However,
he said designation of the Boulder and White Cloud mountains is important.
"The primal silence really gets into this
emotional spirit of me when Iím out taking pictures in these places," he said.
"Itís a place to reconnect, a place to hear myself think. And when I hear myself
think, I can opt to turn it off."
Snyder, whose black-and-white photos
feature many of Idahoís wild places, said his customers donít generally connect
wilderness designation with the photos they are buying. He said it is up to him
to tell his customers why those photos are possible.
"My reason for supporting this is pretty
simple," Boe said. "The worldís population is doubling in the life expectancy of
one person. Itís our obligation to do what we can to protect wild areas in