Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Support plan for Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness

    The Idaho Conservation League and others are lobbying to encourage President Obama to proclaim the Boulder and White Cloud Mountains a national monument. This is a short-sighted approach to “conserving” this remarkable scenic ecosystem.
    The area certainly deserves enhanced protection from mining, grazing, commercial exploitation, mechanized abuse and careless campers.  Wilderness designation is appropriate for the core roadless areas.
    The secretive and vague proclamations that create monuments exclude the public process that democracy demands.  These typically swift proclamations can be a useful defense against existential threats—for instance, when surface mining is nearing approval, or other high impact proposals are advancing.
     However, there is no new, imminent, credible threat to the Boulder-White Clouds.  The reasons advanced by ICL and others focus on economic development and recreational opportunities.  This rationale is not legal or appropriate under the enabling law—the Antiquities Act of 1906.  Specifically, the act provides for “the protection of objects of historic and scientific interest.” The act does not provide for creating tourist attractions.       
    There is ample evidence to show that heightened public awareness resulting from monument designation leads to rapid increases in visitors.  This in turn leads to inevitable and irresistible calls for more infrastructure development to support the influx. What results is an expanded, branded, brochured, paved, homogenized, maintained, fenced, signed, serviced, rationed, policed, user-fee’d, Disney-esque, ecological disaster.  Nearly half of the existing national parks started as national monuments—it’s a very slippery slope.  
    National Monument status for the Boulder-White Clouds does not stop an existential threat; it actually creates one.  Absent any new, credible uses or threats, ICL and other environmental organizations should stay the course for wilderness designation by Congress, and abandon the commercial, agricultural and mechanized compromises of CIEDRA or implicit to national monument lobbying.
Greg Travelstead

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