Still seeking written public comments, the Blaine County commissioners have set a date of Tuesday, Feb. 25, to finalize a resolution in support of a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument.
In late January, the commissioners unanimously agreed to support the proposed monument in principle. A draft resolution written by commission Chair Larry Schoen was considered by the commissioners last week, and has since been posted on the county’s website (click on “Blaine County’s Hot Topics”). In further discussion Tuesday, the commissioners agreed to finalize the draft in time for Schoen to deliver it in person when he visits Washington, D.C., for a conference in early March.
The Blaine County position has already been contradicted by Custer and Lemhi counties, whose commissioners passed resolutions opposing the creation of a national monument last week. Almost all the proposed 571,000-acre monument would be in Custer County.
Blaine County’s draft resolution states that “the Blaine County Board of Commissioners finds the primary purpose of creating the Boulder-White Clouds National Monument is lasting environmental protection of the outstanding wilderness characteristics and values of this extraordinary area. Recreational uses also constitute important secondary benefits; however, they should be carefully balanced and managed in ways that do not conflict with the primary purpose of scientific and ecological protection.”
Numerous public comments have sought language that would keep substantial areas of the Boulder-White Clouds open to mountain biking and motorized use. However, in further discussion Tuesday, the commissioners agreed to emphasize wilderness preservation as the main purpose of a national monument, though Commissioner Angenie McCleary said she didn’t think mountain biking would necessarily conflict with that purpose.
“The specific language of a proclamation can be worked on over the coming months.”
“The most important thing that the resolution should do is specify that the board is in favor of a national monument,” she said. “The specific language of a proclamation can be worked on over the coming months.”
The draft resolution does state, however, that a monument proclamation, “to the extent practicable, follow the legislative intent and provisions of the Central Idaho Economic and Recreation Development Act.” That proposed bill, which has stalled in Congress, allows for some motorized access and would transfer some federal land to the state of Idaho to promote local economic development.
The resolution also urges that a proclamation declare that the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM shall manage the national monument cooperatively.
The Custer County resolution, passed unanimously on Feb. 12, states that creation of a national monument would overturn provisions of the Idaho Roadless Rule. That rule was a collaborative effort led by then-Gov. Jim Risch and included some conservation groups, county commissioners, timber companies, hunters and recreation groups. It provides for a mixture of roadless-area protection and resource development on national forest land in Idaho.
The resolution also states that Custer County already cannot afford the search-and-rescue and EMS services required of it.
It states that there has been “no prior coordination with the local officials and no transparency for all of the counties affected.”