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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, July 21, 2004


BWC flight inspires advocates

Wilderness awareness focus of tour over Boulder-White Clouds

Express Staff Writer

The horizons in Central Idaho are full of teeth, great monoliths poised to puncture the sky. In the Boulder and White Cloud mountains, the tumbling terrain is varied, and it stretches for vast, wild distances.

The land proposed for wilderness designation in the Boulder and White Cloud mountains is vast and, from the seat of a Cessna 210 airplane, quite beautiful. Express photos by Greg Stahl

From the bottom of the impressive scarp of the Boulder Mountains north of Ketchum, the casual onlooker might never guess about the towering ranks of mountains lined in succession to the east of Easley, Silver, Boulder and Galena peaks.

The onlooker might not see that the Boulder Mountains are connected seamlessly with the wild White Cloud peaks to the north and the tumbling hills that stretch downward and eastward from their sky scraping roost.

Bruce Gordon is making a living at helping people see the whole picture. As president of Aspen, Colo.-based EcoFlight, Gordon flies his six-passenger Cessna 210 over portions of the Westís great landscapes to show people what they have to lose.

"Flight is the most honest and engaging perspective one can give to an issue," he said Monday morning as he piloted a crew of wilderness advocates and journalists over the two mountain ranges.

The sun was low on the eastern horizon, and the peaks and hills glowed with the verve of the early-morning light. Puffs of fog nestled in the Sawtooth, Big Lost and Warm Springs valleys.

Itís a land of breathtaking beauty. Itís a land of intact wildlife habitat. Itís a land enjoyed by diverse and varied people. Itís also a land on the cusp between the past and the present, between preservation and utilization.

Kathryn Goldman, a conservation assistant with the Idaho Conservation League, said the wilderness proposal for the Boulder and White Cloud Mountains is "significant." Express photos by Greg Stahl

Congressman Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican, has been working intently for the past year to develop a wilderness and motorized recreation proposal for the two mountain ranges. Following a round of public hearings in Central Idaho last month, he appears close to submitting a bill for his Washington, D.C., colleagues to consider.

"Thatís why weíre doing this. This is a serious proposal," said Katheryn Goldman, a Ketchum-based conservation associate with the Idaho Conservation League.

Goldman, who helped orchestrate the flight, said she wants people to understand how incredible the two mountain ranges, the largest road-free landscape in the lower 48 states, are.

"It is vast," she said, studying a map prior to the flight. "The thing that stands out most in my mind is the diversity of the topography."

While the ice-covered crags of the Boulder and White Cloud mountains were impressive to look at, Goldman was sure to point to the tumbling hills stretching east toward Challis, Willow Creek Summit and the Lost River Range. The relatively low-land hills, many of which would be included in Simpsonís wilderness proposal, contain important wildlife habitat, she said.

"This is a substantial proposal for the east side," she said. "There is a lot of country that is not rocks and ice. That makes it really worth working on in a lot of ways."

For Blaine County Commissioner-elect Tom Bowman, the experience was significant in that it reaffirmed that his trust in the conservation community is well placed.

"When youíre driving up to Stanley, you donít really appreciate the fantastic geographic features we have, literally, in our back yard. You just donít see them, so theyíre out of mind," he said. "Those who know are taking the lead to protect them for the rest of us."

And thatís what EcoFlight is all about, Gordon said.

"Flight offers an essential perspective on landscape issues that is both honest and engaging," he said. "From the air, boundaries and misconceptions melt away and passengers with opposing viewpoints often find common ground from which to work together."

For Ketchum financial consultant Erik Boe, the flight sparked a sense of responsibility.

"Itís more than an opportunity. To me itís an obligation," he said. "Itís our generationís obligation to protect as much of this land as humanly possible. This is our responsibility."


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