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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2004


Enough talk,
wilderness needs action

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson didnít unveil a long-promised plan for wilderness in the Boulder and White Cloud Mountains this week.

Instead, he treated the state to a tepid opinion piece that sounded like it had been drafted to launch an effort to bring people with competing interests to the table to discuss the possibility of a Boulder-White Clouds wilderness area.

Anyone who read Simpsonís piece can be excused for wondering if newspapers around the state mistakenly re-ran an old piece from a back issue.

Simpson and his staff spent the past two years huddled with conservationists, motorized user groups, outfitters, ranchers, Custer County Commissioners, and federal agencies trying to hash out a wilderness plan acceptable to a broad segment of the public. Most people believed the talks had ended, yet Simpsonís latest statement made it sound like they are just beginning.

Thatís news to all the people who spent hours in meetings trying to find common ground with competing interests and who expected that Simpson would soon release proposed wilderness legislation.

Thatís news to all of the news organizations in the state that last fall reported Simpsonís broad outlines for a deal.

What the public got instead of wilderness legislation this week was an excuse for more foot-dragging.

Simpson now says he must reach out to unnamed groups to consult with them on unnamed issues. He wrote, "There are many other issues and groups that will play a part in the ultimate resolution. In the coming months I will be reaching out to these groups and the public to discuss how possible legislation may affect them."

Reaching out is all well and good, but come on, Congressman. Whatís the hitch? Who are these groups? What do they want?

In the decades since the Boulder and White Cloud Mountains became wilderness study areas, a heavy stream of users and federal neglect have eroded the areaís wilderness characteristics. More years without wilderness protection could destroy the solitude and untrammeled nature of mountains that should be part of Idahoís wilderness legacy.

Since Simpson was elected to Congress more than five years ago, he has said repeatedly that resolving the Boulder White Clouds wilderness debate is a top priority. That ignited a spark of hope and a spirit of compromise in people who love these mountains.

Yet, what Idahoans have gotten to date is a lot of talk, veiled promises, and no action. Itís time for a plan. Itís time for some public debate. Itís time for Congressman Simpson to step up and get on with it.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.