With minor exceptions, the nonprofit Idaho Conservation League intends that national monument designation for the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains would preserve existing uses there, the organization’s executive director told Blaine County commissioners on Tuesday.
Rick Johnson was one of about 30 people attending a meeting at the old Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey called to take public input and answer questions regarding the proposed 570,000-acre national monument. His statement followed numerous comments expressing concerns about a potential loss of mountain biking opportunities.
Eric Rector, representing the Wood River Bike Coalition, said the organization may support the proposal, but needs to learn more details. He said the coalition is concerned about monument advocates’ intention to exclude mountain bikes from the core of the White Clouds.
“If that’s something that’s really on their plate, we’d like to know now,” Rector said.
Johnson said the ICL recognizes that it has to compromise on its wilderness values to gain the support of a coalition diverse enough to obtain widespread political support for creation of a national monument.
“Most specifically, we need to work with the mountain biking community, which cares about the landscape. We get that,” he said.
In an interview following the meeting, Johnson said the ICL would like to preserve a core wilderness area in the high peaks, which would mean no mountain biking, but said that area includes only one trail used by bikers—the Castle Divide Trail, to the east of Castle Peak. In general, he said, his organization’s goal is to protect the area from unforeseeable changes far into the future.
“That doesn’t mean turning back the clock,” he said. “I see the purpose as protecting it as it is now.”
“We need to work with the
mountain biking community.”
Idaho Conservation League
Johnson said that when Congress created the 756,000-acre Sawtooth National Recreation Area in 1972, it also designated the Sawtooth Wilderness, but wilderness designation at the core of the White Clouds was viewed as something left to be addressed.
“It gave the Boulder-White Clouds an unfinished charter,” he said.
The proposed 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.
Beyond seeking better protections within the SNRA, monument advocates also want to expand the protected area by 232,000 acres east into the basin of the East Fork of the Salmon River. That could be accomplished through expansion of the SNRA, but that would require an act of Congress. National monument designation can be done by presidential proclamation—an action deemed much more likely to get accomplished.
ICL Central Idaho Associate Dani Mazzotta said the proclamation would designate a management agency for the monument.
Jon Marvel, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project, told meeting attendees that the BLM has not competently managed grazing on its portion of the land that would be included in the expanded area. He said a presidential proclamation for the Sonoran Desert National Monument in Arizona restricted grazing there and could do so here.
John Caywood, representing Sportsmen for the Boulder-White Clouds, expressed support for a national monument, saying it would help preserve the great hunting and fishing that exist there now. He also said grazing restrictions would help expand the bighorn sheep population.
Cailin O’Brien Feeney, representing the Idaho Outdoor Business Council, suggested that all the organizations involved get together to draft a proposed presidential proclamation. That idea was supported by Commissioners Larry Schoen and Jacob Greenberg. Schoen suggested that drafters obtain input from people in Custer County.
“We’re Blaine County commissioners, but we do care about the impacts of this on all the people involved,” he said.
Schoen said the commissioners will most likely make a decision on whether to support the proposal by the end of the year.