Simpson plans to tweak wilderness plan
Legislation to be released later this
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Using comments gleaned from three public
meetings in Central Idaho last week, Rep. Mike Simpson is going to tweak his
wilderness blueprint and economic development package for the Boulder and White
Cloud mountains and surrounding regions and post proposed legislation on his
Internet site by the end of July.
Rep. Mike Simpson
In the meantime, the Idaho Second
Congressional District Republican said he will continue to accept written
comments on his Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act
"framework." His first draft proposes 294,000 acres of congressionally
designated wilderness, as well as land trades, motorized trail development and
the release of some 300,000 acres of wilderness study areas.
When the proposed legislation resurfaces
later this month or early in August, the congressman said he would decide
whether to hold another round of public hearings before introducing the plan to
his colleagues in the form of a congressional bill.
It depends on the feedback he gets when
the more formal document surfaces, he said.
On Thursday and Friday, Simpson hosted
town hall meetings in Ketchum, Stanley and Challis. Each meeting attracted
interests of a different stripe, but Simpson acknowledged that "there were some
very interesting things said" at each of the three meetings.
Generally, those who commented in Ketchum
were critical of Simpsonís framework for failing to include mountainous regions
they hold dear. They also were skeptical about the proposed role for the Idaho
Department of Parks and Recreation in managing or assuming ownership of portions
of the two Central Idaho mountain ranges.
Congressman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho,
issues closing comments to a full house of diverse interests in Stanley on
Friday afternoon. Simpson hosted three town-hall meetings in Central Idaho last
week to collect public opinions on his Central Idaho Economic Development and
Recreation Act proposal. Express photo by David N. Seelig
Again, generally, those who commented in
Stanley said wilderness designation would compromise their enjoyment of areas to
which they have enjoyed motorized and mechanized access. They questioned the
U.S. Forest Serviceís ability to maintain trails in remote areas without use of
modern, motorized and mechanized tools.
In Challis, a number of Custer County
residents said they are willing to accept more wilderness in lieu of proposed
land trades to their county. Some said, however, they wanted assurances that a
wilderness designation in the Boulder and White Cloud mountains would be the
last they would have to endure.
Ketchumís was the most one-sided public
hearing. All but a small handful of those who commented were strong wilderness
proponents. The public hearing in Challis garnered the most positive reviews of
the framework, Simpson observed.
But Simpson also said he believes the most
strongly opinionated people usually speak at public hearings. He said he expects
more middle-of-the-road comments from those who weigh in using their pens.
"When people look at something thatís
compromising, the first thing is to look at the things you donít like," he said.
The more positive attributes will get more
attention as people look at the plan longer, he said.
The most consistent thread through the
three meetings was Simpsonís own lecture on the nature of compromise.
"There are different points of view. You
have to try to understand their perspective," he said. "Ask yourself: Is there a
way we can fashion an Idaho solution?"
For Stanley rancher Jay Neider, that might
"Since the Sawtooth National Recreation
Areaís come in, they havenít done much except harass us," he said. "Theyíve run
out virtually all the mines. Theyíve run out virtually all the logging Ö I call
it the Forest Circus, because they donít know what way theyíre going half the
Cheryl Hymas, a local horseback rider,
said the Sawtooth Valley works as it is. There are wilderness opportunities in
the Sawtooth Mountains and multiple use opportunities in the White Cloud
"This is the Sawtooth National Recreation
Area, not the Sawtooth National Wilderness Area," she said.
But Hymas said she could see it both ways.
"I donít want to see my precious Castle
Peak desecrated any more than the next guy," she said. "But weíve got to share
this. I want everybody to love it like I have."
The Stanley and Challis meetings certainly
drew a mixed bag of comments, however.
Tom Steward, a 27-year Stanley business
owner said wilderness protection has been good for business in Idaho.
He called Simpsonís plan a "great first
In Challis, those who spoke were in two
distinct camps. Those for wilderness and those against it. Former Custer County
Commissioner and East Fork of the Salmon River valley rancher Melodie Baker said
her county can not survive on recreation alone.
"It never has. It never will," she said.
"We need multiple use."
Carolyn Smith, a Mackay rancher, said
something has to be done to stop wilderness.
"If we do do it, can we put something in
there to stop the wilderness cancer from taking up all the land?" she asked.
Allen Getty, a member of a Custer County
economic stabilization committee, placed his countyís woes on the shoulders of
"Look at our main street. Itís dead, and
itís all thanks to our congress and our government," he said.
But singer Carole King, also a 27-year
Custer County resident, asked her neighbors to "dare to dream."
"We need to dream. We need to vision and
imagine things outside the traditional," she said. "We need something to disturb
the economy, but weíre all afraid to grow."