Friday, July 14, 2006

Let's protect the Boulder-White Clouds

Guest opinion by Randy Hall and Jon Thorson

Randy Hall is serving his first term as the mayor of Ketchum. Jon Thorson is serving his first term as the mayor of Sun Valley.

In this day and age with politics being what they are, it is not reasonable to expect perfection in any new legislation. This is the case with the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA) sponsored by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho. The scope of this bill is broad and addresses many issues that Idahoans hold near and dear. It is no wonder that not everyone agrees with the compromises made. But the old adage proves true: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

It is our opinion that Congressman Simpson has done a superb job of navigating his way through the daunting task of crafting a bill that balances the needs of diverse constituencies without alienating them from the process. We all want what is in the best interest of this great state. It is our hope that, as a community and as citizens, instead of looking at what is wrong with this bill, we look at what is right about it.

From our standpoint as elected officials, Simpson's proposal is critical to assuring that our local economy is sustainable for decades to come. Both Ketchum and Sun Valley are almost solely dependent on income generated from tourists who come to experience the scenic beauty and recreation choices our spectacular landscape offers. By providing permanent protection to core wildland areas, assuring high-quality wilderness hunting opportunities, and clarifying and enforcing off-highway-vehicle trails and regulations, his legislation will minimize user conflicts and assure sustainable high-quality wilderness recreation for generations to come.

Some opponents of the legislation have argued that we should hold out and support the Rockies Prosperity Act instead of CIEDRA. We believe these initiatives are not mutually exclusive, and we support both. The five-state, 18 million-acres-of-wilderness Prosperity Act is a bold bill, one that we hope will succeed some day. Until that time, however, we think it is important to permanently protect qualifying wild lands as wilderness.

Custer County, our neighbor to the north with whom we share the Boulder-White Clouds, does not have the luxury of being an all-season resort area, and consequently faces significant economic limitations, as do many rural Idaho counties. Simpson has worked out what seems to us a highly reasonable package of economic assistance for Custer County as part of CIEDRA, including transfer of some very modest parcels of federal land.

Then there is the indirect economic benefit. We in Ketchum and Sun Valley know the "value-added" we receive from designated wilderness areas on our doorstep, and we think our friends in Custer County deserve some of that proven economic benefit, too. We believe more folks up there are realizing that being a gateway to an even greater, more strongly protected wilderness-and-recreation complex centered on the incomparable Sawtooths-Boulder-White Clouds will work to their benefit, as more and more rural communities across the West are learning.

While the modest federal lands that Custer County would receive—3,600 acres total—have been criticized by some, we again remind the people of Idaho to look at the larger perspective and what we all stand to gain when CIEDRA is enacted.

People in rural Central Idaho will get much-needed economic stimulus—and for Custer County (which is more than 95 percent federal land) we think that help is merited and long overdue. And, after all, a healthy rural economy is good for all Idahoans. Motorized recreation enthusiasts will get reasonable certainty as to which trails and areas around the Boulder-White Clouds will remain for enjoyment by their families, particularly trails they have identified as priorities. Idaho families and visitors who prefer to find quiet recreation under their own power—for bird watching, fishing, camping, hunting, hiking, and so much more—will have the assurance that long favorite, but unprotected, wilderness haunts will at long last get the protection of law.

So we call on all Idahoans to get behind Simpson's common sense, reasonable bill and to join us in speaking up for it. We've had a great Idaho debate about the details, but time is now short to get it enacted into law this year. Simpson needs to know we are behind him, and Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo need to know it, too.

The way we see it, CIEDRA will go down in the books as a historic landmark for Idaho: good for the land, good for the economy and good for our communities.

 Local Weather 
Search archives:

Copyright © 2024 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.