Idaho gubernatorial politics have come full-circle. The White Cloud Mountains are, once again, at issue in a race for the governor's office.
Congressman Butch Otter, R-Idaho, made known last week that he does not support Congressman Mike Simpson's Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act. Otter is running for governor on the Republican ticket.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brady announced his support for the legislation just days later.
Brady appeared Monday morning with four-time Idaho Gov. and Carter administration Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus, and called for passage of the act.
"Failing to protect our hunting and fishing lands once is a mistake, but twice is an inexcusable pattern," Brady said, referring to Otter's 2005 attempt to sell 5 million acres of Idaho public lands.
Andrus questioned Otter's motives.
"I was elected in 1970, largely because I pledged to protect the Boulder-White Clouds wilderness from mining special interests," he said. "CIEDRA not only protects the Boulder-White Clouds, but also includes a number of important compromises. I don't understand why anyone would oppose this bill."
But Otter praises the work Simpson has accomplished on CIEDRA, said his congressional press secretary, Mark Warbis.
"He respects and supports the process of engaging stakeholders that Congressman Simpson has used in building the bill to this point," Warbis said. "He just doesn't believe it has reached the level of consensus necessary for enactment."
Warbis said Otter applauds the consensus Simpson has managed to build thus far. He said it's an indication that the process works and also shows there is room for even more agreement.
"He is not opposed to wilderness in the Boulder-White Clouds," Warbis said. "When a level of consensus is reached among the various stakeholders, he will support it."
Simpson issued a statement of his own Tuesday morning, clarifying that Otter was, in fact, in attendance when the House of Representatives voted on CIEDRA July 24.
"Although I am disappointed that Congressman Otter has made clear that he is opposed to CIEDRA, I cannot allow him to be unfairly castigated for 'missing a vote on CIEDRA," Simpson said.
Based on newspaper reports last week, Brady had criticized Otter for missing the vote.