Friday, January 3, 2014

Conservation issues included proposed Boulder-White Clouds monument

Express Staff Writer

The Idaho Conservation League has asked President Barack Obama to designate a national monument in the Boulder-White Clouds mountains. Photo by Roland Lane

    First raised late in the administration of President George W., a proposed national monument for the Boulder-White Clouds mountains was resurrected in the spring by the Idaho Conservation League due to stagnation in Congress of proposed wilderness designation for the area.
    Unlike national parks and wilderness areas, national monuments are created by presidential proclamation.
    The proposed 571,000-acre 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, advocates said. 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.  
    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 proposal. The idea was criticized by many of the 70 people attending an information meeting hosted by the Sawtooth Society in Stanley on Nov. 7, as well as by mountain bikers during a meeting before the Blaine County commissioners on Nov. 19, when several people expressed concerns about monument advocates’ intention to exclude bikes from the core of the White Clouds.
    In an interview, ICL Executive Director Rick Johnson said the ICL would like to preserve a core wilderness area in the high peaks, but 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.”
Groundwater recharge plan
    Twenty-three individuals and groups filed protests against a plan to use unclaimed water in the Big Wood River to recharge the local aquifer and sell that water to irrigators during the summer.
     In February 2012, Innovative Mitigation Solutions, a Boise-based company founded by former Idaho Department of Water Resources Director David Tuthill, filed an application with Tuthill’s former department for a water right to divert 154 cubic feet per second from the Big Wood River year-round. In late November 2013, Tuthill told the Idaho Mountain Express that he planned to file applications for four more diversions—two from the Big Wood and two from creeks in Adams Gulch and Oregon Gulch.
    The intent of recharging the aquifer is to provide water to groundwater users so they can continue to pump from their wells after a “call” by downstream holders of more senior surface water rights during times of low water.  
Kilpatrick Pond project
    In September, the largest restoration project ever at Silver Creek began. The Nature Conservancy, which owns and manages Silver Creek Preserve, along with a private landowner, began restoring Kilpatrick Pond to address rising water temperatures and sediment buildup affecting more than 15 miles of creek downstream.
    Restoration plans included enhancing streamside habitats, creating a more diverse stream channel and stabilizing existing sediments by creating wetlands. Several public access points will be created along a portion of Silver Creek.
    Conservation Manager Dayna Gross said the project is “one of our highest priorities as a chapter and the most important thing we can do for the long-term health of the Silver Creek system.”

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