Wednesday, November 13, 2013

National monument idea opposed in Stanley

Views expressed during Sawtooth Society forum

Express Staff Writer

A proposed national monument for the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains would encompass 570,000 acres and extend to the east of the current Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Photo by courtesy photo

    During a presentation in Stanley last week, Sawtooth Society representatives said many questions remain about the consequences of a proposed national monument in the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains. Even so, views expressed during the event indicated that many Stanley residents oppose the idea.
    The Stanley-based nonprofit organization hosted the informational event at the Stanley Community Center on Thursday, Nov. 7. The organization’s president, Paul Hill, said it has for many years supported a more permanent and effective form of protection for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, but has not taken a position on the national monument proposal.
    First raised late in the administration of President George W. Bush by then-Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, a former Idaho governor, the national monument idea was resurrected this spring by the nonprofit Idaho Conservation League due to the stagnation in Congress of proposed wilderness designation for the area. Unlike national parks and wilderness areas, national monuments are created by presidential proclamation, not by congressional legislation.
    The range of management plans in the country’s 108 national monuments appears to be a source of both support for and opposition to the Boulder-White Clouds proposal.
    ICL Executive Director Rick Johnson said in May that designation as a national monument would provide:

  • Potential expansion of the protected area.
  • The likelihood of more federal funding.
  • A higher public profile, which would boost tourism.
  • The opportunity to prohibit expansion of motorized use.

    The proposed monument would include 438,000 acres of national forest, 134,000 acres of BLM land, 11,000 acres of state land and 8,671 acres of private land. Sawtooth Society Executive Director Gary O’Malley said Thursday that the monument would probably be managed jointly by the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM, and management direction would be determined both by the presidential proclamation and management plans drafted in response to it. He said the monument would include 328,000 acres of the existing 756,000-acre Sawtooth National Recreation Area, and that portion would be managed according to the dictates of both those designations.
    Johnson said in May that hunting should continue to be permitted in a national monument. O’Malley said that unlike wilderness designation, a monument could list mountain biking as a value to be protected.
    “It could be a great opportunity for the mountain biking community,” he said.
    Rob Mason, central Idaho representative for The Wilderness Society, which has joined the ICL in promoting the designation, said he did not anticipate any effects on outfitters. He also said no one is suggesting that motorized use by eliminated.
    Following the Sawtooth Society’s presentation, the approximately 70 people attending the event broke into groups of about five people each to discuss the idea and report their views. Those reports including the following:

  • “We don’t think the management of the area needs to be changed. We think it’s being managed pretty well. We don’t want more government control.”
  • There’s enough tourist traffic in the Sawtooth Valley already. “Our little town can’t handle any more.”
  • Management changes are too unpredictable. They could include less wolf control.
  • National monument designation could eventually result in national park designation.
  • Perhaps the SNRA should be expanded instead.
  • It would be good to have unified management of the area, but there isn’t enough information available yet. “We want to enhance the recreational values.”
  • National monument designation could result in less grazing land, which is a concern.

Mason said in an interview that the proposal has not yet been addressed by the Obama administration.
“I know the administration would like as much public input as they can get,” he said.
    Mason encouraged people to give their opinions to The Wilderness Society and the ICL as well.
    “We want to try to integrate the public’s concerns as much as possible,” he said.
    The Sawtooth Society has taken an official position on the idea but has expressed concerns.

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