Wednesday, March 12, 2014

White Clouds users reach agreement

Joint proposal would designate wilderness and biking trails

Express Staff Writer

The Boulder-White Cloud Mountains north of Ketchum include hundreds of thousands of acres of forest land dotted with high peaks and alpine lakes. Photo by Mountain Express

    A coalition of conservation and mountain bike groups on Tuesday unveiled a joint proposal to protect wilderness and allow mountain bike access in a potential Boulder-White Clouds National Monument north of Ketchum.
    Representatives of the Idaho Conservation League, Wood River Bicycle Coalition, International Mountain Bicycling Association and The Wilderness Society say they worked together for months before hitting a balance between land protection in areas long recommended for wilderness and mountain biking opportunities.
    The agreement urges the Obama administration to protect the Boulder-White Clouds as a national monument with a primary goal being the continued use by the public “in largely the same way and in the same condition that it is today.” It recommends a mix of wilderness-grade protections for important watersheds in high alpine lake basins and the high peaks of the White Cloud Mountains alongside formalized travel corridors that preserve access for mountain biking in places such as Castle Divide and Ants Basin.
    “The Boulder-White Clouds have extraordinary wilderness values and world-class recreational access,” said Rick Johnson, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League. “We are working together to protect both.”
    The agreement urges that areas not part of road or motorized-trail corridors be managed under two categories: Wilderness Character zones and Human-Powered Backcountry Recreation zones.
    The agreement includes a list of 22 trails proposed for inclusion in the Human-Powered Backcountry Recreation Zone. Among those are:
- The East Fork Salmon River Trail (from monument boundary near Grand Prize Gulch trailhead to East Fork trailhead).
- Germania Creek Trail (from Pole Creek Road to Germania Creek trailhead).
- Castle Divide Trail (from Washington Lake Trail to Big Boulder Creek trailhead).
- Little Boulder Creek Trail (from Big Boulder Creek Trail to Little Boulder Creek trailhead).
- Warm Springs Creek Trail (from Ants Basin Trail to monument boundary).
- Ants Basin Trail (from Washington Lake Trail to Warm Springs Creek Trail).
    The groups stated that with regard to lands within the proposed national monument lying east of the East Fork of the Salmon River, they will “seek to achieve harmony in the management plan between areas managed for wilderness character and areas managed for human-powered recreation.”

Protection can and should balance wilderness character with mountain biking and other forms of low-impact recreation.”
Brett Stevenson
Wood River Bike Coalition

    “The Boulder-White Clouds is a spectacular landscape, and its valued for many reasons,” said Brett Stevenson, executive director of the Wood River Bicycle Coalition in Hailey. “It warrants national monument protection and that protection can and should balance wilderness character with mountain biking and other forms of low-impact recreation that are compatible with conservation objectives.”  ---
    ICL Central Idaho Associate Dani Mazzotta said the agreement did not address motorized use, and does not imply that motorcycles and snowmobiles should be excluded from all the trails proposed for the Human-Powered Backcountry Recreation Zone. She said the conservation organizations have been involved in discussions with motorized users to put a joint plan together.
    “Certainly, it’s very important that we here in Idaho are having these conversations,” she said. “It’s going to make the difference between an agreement that doesn’t take into account local input and an Idaho-made plan.”
    Sandra Mitchel, executive director of the Boise-based Idaho Recreation Council, which advocates for motorized recreation, said she had provided the ICL with maps showing trails popular for motorized use. However, she said she had not seen the recent agreement and could not comment on it.
    But Bill Dart, a Caldwell resident and longtime advocate for motorized recreation in the Boulder-White Clouds, contended that most motorcycle riders and snowmobilers oppose any national monument designation.
    “The only reason to do all this, in my mind, is to eliminate motorized recreation,” he said.
    During a Blaine County Commission meeting Tuesday, commission Chair Larry Schoen said his view that local collaboration is crucial to obtaining national monument designation was reinforced by a trip he made to Washington, D.C., early this month. He said he initially scheduled the trip to attend a National Association of Counties conference, but also presented the commissioners’ resolution of support to federal land management agencies, the president’s Council on Environmental Quality and Idaho congressional delegation members.
    “There’s a cautious approach to a presidential designation,” Schoen said. “Everyone in Washington wants to know that there is support here in Idaho.”
    He said the Custer County commissioners, who have passed their own resolution opposing a national monument, have expressed a willingness to discuss the issue with Blaine County representatives.
    “I think we should take advantage of that,” he said. “I know that not everybody will ever be supportive. The issue is how much support is there, what are the benefits and can the reservations be addressed.”
Greg Moore:

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