By BOB ROSSO
My wife and I along with two other friends recently hiked the Horton Peak trail more than 3,000 vertical feet to the summit and the site of an old, now abandoned fire lookout. From this perch, located at the very southwest end of the White Cloud Mountains, the 360-degree view of the entire White Cloud Range and the Sawtooth Wilderness is spectacular.
I came to Idaho in 1971 and opened my business, The Elephant’s Perch, in Ketchum in 1976. Since then, we have explored almost every inch of the mountains surrounding this absolutely spectacular part of Idaho. It is totally amazing to me as a business person that we cannot politically come to an agreement to preserve and protect the Boulder-White Clouds ecosystem.
There have been challenges with mining, developments and all the various groups, from motorized users to horsemen, and even mountain bikers. My experience working for many years here in the Wood River Valley with recreational issues is that solutions can happen if people are willing to work together to achieve a future that we can all be proud of.
I applaud the efforts of Rep. Mike Simpson and his staff, who have worked over the years with various constituencies to craft a balanced land protection package. More recently, I have been excited to see some of Idaho’s top environmental leaders, along with former Gov. Cecil Andrus, calling on President Obama to use his executive powers to create a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument. I believe this is an excellent approach to the challenges that have gridlocked this effort for the past few years.
As an avid recreationist and an outdoor business owner, I fully realize how vital recreational activities are to the future economic health of Idaho. The national monument concept should be the way to go, for sure.
The Idaho Outdoor Business Council—an organization that The Elephant’s Perch belongs to—recently conducted a poll showing that 97 percent of Idahoans agree that “our public lands, including forests, national parks, monuments and wildlife areas are an essential part of Idaho’s quality of life.”
Yes, the establishment of this White Clouds National Monument will help our recreation- and tourism-based economy. It will draw people to the Wood River Valley, Sawtooth Valley and many areas surrounding it. The visitors will come to see this amazing place, and they will spend money on accommodations, restaurants and more.
The “devil” will be in the details of the prospectus that needs to be developed, and that will require reasonable people to be willing to think hard about the future of Idaho, and to give and take in order to find the correct balance of all user groups and management agencies to make this work perfectly. As the owner of a “people-powered sports store,” I am certainly biased toward nonmotorized activities for many reasons. However, I firmly believe that all Americans deserve the opportunity to recreate and enjoy their personal areas of interest. If we respect the land first, and balance the user groups, we can and must find a solution to the very heart and soul of Idaho.
If our elected officials in Congress cannot take action, then I sincerely hope that Obama will. This would be an amazing tribute to the work that Gov. Andrus put in many years ago, and Rep. Simpson more recently—both are men who understand how to strike the right balance with natural resources issues.
I implore all involved to work hard and make this happen now! The time is right! We can do this!
Bob Rosso is the owner of The Elephant’s Perch, an outdoor recreation store in Ketchum.