Friday, June 4, 2010

Itís time for new Idaho wilderness

The Boulder-White Clouds are the largest unprotected natural area in the lower 48 states.

Wendy Jaquet

State Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, represents District 25, which includes Blaine County.


For 16 years, I have had the pleasure to serve and represent the citizens of my district in the Idaho Legislature. I have learned a lot about what it means to be an elected official. Many times you will find yourself caught between diverse interests. Having to resolve those differences and find common ground is an art that has been lost in a time when partisan politics have crippled our government. Today is not like my high school government class teacher promised.

That is why I support Congressman Mike Simpson's efforts to assemble balanced legislation for the Boulder-White Clouds of central Idaho, where federal lands management issues are complex. Simpson's Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, or CIEDRA, is a finely crafted piece of legislation that takes into account the need to preserve a piece of the Idaho backcountry the way that it has always been. This legislation also includes important provisions for economic development and public needs in Custer and Blaine counties. And, I know that the competing interests on all sides have had to give a lot to get here.

The Boulder-White Clouds are the largest unprotected natural area in the lower 48 states. CIEDRA would preserve three wilderness areas, including the White Clouds, Jerry Peak and the Boulders. These lands are among the most beautiful in Idaho. That's why these areas are popular with hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and motorized recreationists. Although more than 330,000 acres of wilderness would be designated by CIEDRA, popular trails such as Germania Creak, Frog Lake and Fisher-Williams would remain open to mountain bikes and motorcycles— just to name a few. Similarly, the western half of the Warm Springs drainage, Champion Lakes and the North Fork of the Big Wood River would not be designated as wilderness so that snowmobile use can continue. This snowmobile use will continue despite the fact that the Sawtooth National Forest management plan recommended that these lands be designated as wilderness.

CIEDRA also transfers 900 acres of land to Custer and Blaine counties for two fire stations, a school bus turnaround, a waste transfer site, a cemetery, a water tower, a wastewater treatment facility and other public purposes. The controversial parcels in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area have been dropped.

Rep. Simpson promised to deliver wilderness preservation, economic development and other provisions when he began the task of developing this legislation. These compromises are not about "selling out." Instead, they are about finding solutions. On balance, I believe CIEDRA is the right thing to do for central Idaho. As an elected official, I'm encouraged by the fact that Idaho's entire congressional delegation supports this bill. I urge them to do everything in their power to move this legislation through Congress.

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