Wednesday, June 8, 2005

SNRA land giveaways totally inappropriate

Guest opinion by Coalition of Concerned Forest Service Land Managers


By COALITION OF CONCERNED FOREST SERVICE LAND MANAGERS

The Coalition of Retired Forest Service Land Managers is comprised of Ralph Cisco, District Ranger, Sawtooth Valley Ranger District, 1962 to 1972; Tom Kovalicky, Assistant SNRA Superintendent, 1972 to 1977; Allan Ashton, SNRA Superintendent, 1977 to 1987; David Hoefer, Assistant SNRA Area Ranger, 1978 to 1987; Carl Pence, SNRA Area Ranger, 1987 to 1992, Deon Wells, SNRA Lands Specialist, 1975 to 1994; Jeff Jones, SNRA Mineral Examiner, 1983 to 1990 ; Ed Bloedel, Sawtooth National Forest Recreation and Lands Staff Officer, 1987 to 1991; Frank Rowland, SNRA Interpretive Specialist, 1976 to 1986; and Scott Phillips, SNRA Dispersed Recreation Manager, 1986 to 1991.

We commend Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson and his staff for some sustained work in tackling the longstanding Boulder-White Clouds wilderness issue, which includes lands within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA). However, there is a major problem with the Central Idaho Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA)—specifically—the unacceptable giveaways of precious SNRA lands for development to Custer County and the City of Stanley. These 162 acres in three parcels near Stanley include crucial elk wintering range, Valley Creek Chinook salmon and steelhead habitat, wetlands, and world class views of the Sawtooth Mountains.

Public Law 92-400 is the legal cornerstone that established the SNRA in 1972. The law clearly states that the primary purposes of the SNRA will be to "preserve the natural, scenic, historic, pastoral, wildlife and recreational values" for all Americans. The key point: The SNRA was established as A National Recreation Area and not as a local "economic development area." It does not appear legally appropriate for any elected official to take a public policy stance opposite of the congressional intent and spirit of Public Law 92-400.

We strongly urge Rep. Simpson to remove any language or part of his bill, including the SNRA land giveaways, that would undermine or substantially impair the values for which the SNRA was established. The American public has invested heavily in SNRA land protections. Since 1972, approximately $65 million taxpayer dollars ($7.5 million in 2005 alone) have been wisely spent to purchase land or acquire scenic easements on private land parcels within the SNRA to prevent subdivisions and commercial developments.

A few local officials in Stanley and Custer County support acquiring the 162 acres for commercial development. They accuse local citizens in opposition of NIMBYISM. Translated--"not in my back yard." This shallow thinking is erroneous. Precious hard won SNRA public lands belong to all Americans and are our common natural heritage. This is a national issue, not to be decided by the short-term economic desires of any particular Idaho city or county. Privatization of prime SNRA lands is a totally inappropriate means to an end to achieve wilderness designation.

Long-term economic benefits will be enhanced for the Stanley community if the adjacent irreplaceable assets remain in public SNRA ownership. Continued protection of the scenic views, riparian ecology, wildlife, and fisheries will translate to significant economic benefits for local businesses 50 and 200 years down the road. Additionally, in section 6 of Public Law 92-400 there are objectives for the "restoration and maintenance of the historic setting and background of the frontier ranch type town of Stanley."

As concerned Forest Service land managers who worked professionally on the SNRA or in the Sawtooth Forest supervisor's office, we specifically recommend that Rep. Simpson reconsider the land giveaways. If the giveaways cannot be taken out of CIEDRA, then we strongly recommend that the bill be rejected

We urge all Americans to contact the Idaho congressional delegation and Congress and insist that there be no SNRA land giveaways under any circumstances. Unprincipled regression to commercial development of SNRA lands is legally wrong, financially backwards, and ethically unconscionable. Future generations deserve proper stewardship of the SNRA now.




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