Wednesday, May 26, 2010

CIEDRA shows hope for bipartisanship


It has been a number of years now since I last walked the trails in my beloved Boulder-White Clouds. But I cherish indelible memories of growing up in the shadow of those fabulous mountains and of favorite jaunts with my husband, Frank, and our children across flower-studded meadows to camp in this high, wild Idaho paradise.

It is because my family had the opportunity to enjoy this special, unspoiled corner of our state that I feel so strongly that future generations of Idahoans should have that same opportunity. Here, in forests and along ridges far away from the clamor and noise of our overly stressed, overly mechanized modern life, they will find the same refreshment of body and spirit that Idaho's hikers, hunters, anglers and horseback riders enjoy today.

This is why I am so proud of all four members of our Idaho congressional delegation, who have joined as co-sponsors of the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act and are working to enact this legislation into law this year. The unprecedented non-partisan commitment of our delegation's backing this important conservation and economic development measure gives me great hope at a time when too many in the media focus only on partisan divisions.

The day this well-balanced proposal becomes law, the vast majority of Idahoans will celebrate not only the protection of the quiet forests and mountain trails, but also the solid economic shot in the arm that CIEDRA will bring to the local communities and small businesses, particularly in Custer County. Thanks to Rep. Mike Simpson, who has been working on this proposal for many years, CIEDRA is not some Washington, D.C., product but an initiative that was developed from the ground up, where local voices and interests were heard—that is, every voice and interest that could accept that the ultimate proposal would reflect a broad balance. Mike Simpson tirelessly pursued the approach of sitting down with local officials and diverse interests to ask for their ideas for the future of this region. He also listened thoughtfully to critiques of some features of his original proposal and has adopted improvements that made a good piece of legislation even better.

Thanks to this inclusive process—drawing on the best ideas of local ranchers, towns and counties, and diverse recreational groups—there is a wide consensus among Idahoans who see CIEDRA as a solid, made-in-Idaho proposal. As important as what it offers to the people of Idaho today, this vital economic and conservation measure is the key to assuring that our generation can pass this wonderful recreational area unspoiled to be enjoyed by future generations of Idahoans.

Think of it: Long after we are gone, those who come after us will have the chance to enjoy this unmatched sample of the original Idaho, to walk along those same high ridges that my family enjoyed. For that, I am so grateful to Mike Simpson, Walt Minnick, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch. Thanks to their non-partisan leadership and their commitment to listening to the voices of Idahoans, we can conserve the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains in a way that works for the benefit of the local communities in central Idaho.

Bethine Church is the widow of Sen. Frank Church, a cosponsor of the 1964 Wilderness Act and a primary figure in the creation of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and the River of No Return Wilderness.

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