Wilderness proposal released
Congressman to host town hall meetings
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
If things go according to plan, Rep. Mike
Simpson, R-Idaho, will submit potential wilderness legislation for the Boulder
and White Cloud mountains to Congress by the end of July.
In the meantime, he said he wants to hear
from the public about an 11-page "framework" that outlines his proposals for a
wilderness, economic development and motorized recreation package that would
center on Custer county and the two Central Idaho mountain ranges.
Simpson released the framework on Friday,
June 18. An associated map was posted to his Web site on Tuesday, June 22.
The so-called Central Idaho Economic
Development and Recreation Act proposal features potential designation of three
separate wilderness areas, opening and closing of trails, construction of a
paved bicycle path and federal land transfers to Custer County, among a myriad
of other considerations.
It would also give $1 million in the Idaho
Off Road Motor Vehicle Program and convey federal properties to the state of
Idaho to be administered as campgrounds, recreation facilities and as access
points to federal land. It would create a Boulder-White Clouds Recreation
Management Area, which would include all lands not designated as wilderness.
Simpson said the document is a starting
point for public consideration and is not a finished product. The concepts will
be refined over the summer following public meetings and a public comment
"Iíll be able to comment a lot better
after those meetings," he said.
In a Tuesday interview, Simpson said he
has been working on the prospect of a wilderness bill in the Boulder and White
Cloud mountain ranges since he was first elected in 1999. In the spring of that
year, he announced at a gathering of conservationists in the Sawtooth Valley
that he would work on the issue.
"As I met with different people and talked
about the problems they have, the problems the ranchers are having in the area,
the problems the county commissioners are having, it really began to gel," he
said. "It became apparent that maybe we could put together a plan that is
comprehensive to try to address a variety of problems in the area."
The document is broken into five distinct
parts, but the most substantive material appears in sections about wilderness
designation, property transfers and motorized trail access.
The proposal would designate three
wilderness areas, totaling between 250,000 and 300,000 acres in all. They would
be called the Boulder Wilderness Area, White Cloud Wilderness Area and Jerry
Peak Wilderness Area. The latter would be managed by the Bureau of Land
Management, while the U.S. Forest Service would manage the Boulder and White
Cloud wilderness areas.
Corridors of motorized trail access would
divide the wilderness areas, including a controversial east-to-west motorized
corridor from Pole Creek through Germania Creek.
Along with the designation of three new
wilderness areas, all other Wilderness Study Area lands contained in the two
mountain ranges would be released. Congress designated the Wilderness Study Area
in 1972 when the Sawtooth National Recreation Area was established.
Simpson also has proposed a number of
tactics for economic development in Custer County, including the transfer of
federal land to Custer County to be sold for development.
SNRA land west of Stanley and adjacent to
Highway 21 would be conveyed to Custer County. After its subdivision, Simpson
estimates the land could be worth between $6 million and $10 million.
Another 1,000 acres of Challis National
Forest lands would be transferred to Custer County.
Other "small miscellaneous" properties
would be transferred to Custer County or private landowners to clean up
conflicts with the BLM and Forest Service.
Other small properties would be
transferred to Custer County and the State of Idaho to be used for recreation
and tourism development.
Another part of the economic development
package would be construction of a paved bicycle path and winter snowmobile
trail connecting Stanley with Redfish Lake.
Also, ranchers impacted by the wilderness
designation would be allowed to voluntarily retire their public land grazing
Finally, the proposal would reopen the
Champion Lakes Trail to two-wheel motorized access, and it would create a new
motorized trail connecting Phyllis Lake to the Washington Basin Trail. The
proposal lists a number of existing motorized trails that would remain open to
motorized and mechanized access.
"I have to say that Iíve been very
impressed with all of the different user groups that have really stayed together
on talking about all of this," Simpson said. "The challenge has been keeping
them together and trying to mediate the concerns of many different users and
views on management in the Boulder-White Clouds.
"This same proposal probably would not
have been feasible 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago. But the time has
come where most of them have realized we need to resolve some of these problems.
"The alternative is to do nothing and have
a lot of these issues unresolved," he said. "I think that if we are unable to
resolve this now, I doubt anyone will try it again for the next 20 years."
Town hall meetings:
Rep. Mike Simpson announced that he
will hold three town hall meetings in July to discuss the proposed framework for
a possible Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA).
- Ketchum, July 1, 9 a.m. to 11
a.m., American Legion Hall. The focus at this meeting is on the wilderness
component of CIEDRA.
- Stanley, July 1, 2 p.m. to 4
p.m., Stanley School. The focus at this meeting is the recreation component of
- Challis, July 2, 9 a.m. to 11
a.m., Challis High School. The focus at this meeting is the economic
development component of CIEDRA.
Information is available online at
E-mail comments there or write to Rep. Mike Simpson, 802 West Bannock Street,
Suite 600, Boise, ID 83702.