Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Feds invited to discuss monument plan

Letters follow joint meeting in Challis

Express Staff Writer

    The Blaine and Custer County commissioners have invited three top Obama administration officials to visit the area to answer questions and hear concerns about a proposed Boulder-White Clouds National Monument.
    Letters to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Council on Environmental Quality Acting Chair Michael Boots were sent Monday. The letters were drafted following an agreement to do so reached during a joint meeting of the two county boards in Challis on Thursday, May 29.
    “At these and at prior meetings already held in each county, many opinions have been expressed and many questions have been asked about the monument designation process, as well as the effects national monument status might have on the use and management of these areas,” the letters state. “Both counties would like you and your staff to visit our communities to try to answer the outstanding questions, help us better understand the issues and hear and respond to our concerns.

The two counties view prospective meetings with you as essential to moving forward.”
Blaine and Custer County commissioners

    “The two counties view prospective meetings with you as essential to moving forward with this process, one way or the other. We want you and others in President Obama’s administration to hear and understand local sentiment, before any action is taken.”
    The letters do not suggest a specific date for a meeting.
    The Blaine County commissioners have passed a resolution supporting designation of a proposed 591,000-acre national monument, about 90 percent of which would be in Custer County, and the Custer County commissioners have passed a resolution opposing it.
    The meeting in Challis followed a similar joint board meeting in Sun Valley on May 7. Blaine County Commission Chair Larry Schoen said in an interview that he believes the meetings accomplished his goal of “building a little bit of a bridge between the two communities.”
    “I think that even though there was opposition expressed, many people in Custer County who attended the [Challis] meeting appreciated the fact that the Blaine County commissioners took the time to come up there and listen to them,” he said. “I think people acknowledge that by and large, we’re not so far apart on a lot of things, and there are a lot of commonalities.”
    Custer County Commission Chair Wayne Butts said the mere fact that the two boards met jointly was “history in the making.”
    “If nothing more than that happens, then we accomplished something,” he said.
    However, Butts predicted that President Barack Obama will sign a national monument proclamation without adequately considering local opposition.
Greg Moore:

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