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Friday, July 23, 2004


Wilderness falls on Ketchumís doorstep

Simpson revises plan for Boulder-White Clouds

Express Staff Writer

As a Central Idaho hunter and flyfisherman, Ernest Hemingway likely would have been proud to hear that a new wilderness area adjacent to Ketchum and Sun Valley might bear his name.

In revising his wilderness proposal for the Boulder and White Cloud mountains, Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, has announced he hopes to designate an additional 40,000 acres of road-free country immediately northeast of Ketchum and Sun Valley as wilderness.

The area, to be called the Hemingway Wilderness Area, would include some lands currently administered by the Bureau of Land Managementís Shoshone Field Office and others that are administered by the Sawtooth National Forest.

According to the new proposal, released Thursday, July 22, the additional wilderness area would include Amber lakes, Goat Creek, Konrad Creek, Murdock Creek and the upper reaches of Eagle and Lake creeks, including the ridgelines between the two valleys north of Ketchum.

Trail Creek would serve as the wilderness boundary on the north side of Trail Creek Road.

Although he is proposing deletion of some other areas as wilderness in the White Clouds, the addition of the Hemingway Wilderness Area would bring the total acreage in Simpsonís new proposal to close to 400,000 acres, said Lindsay Slater, Simpsonís chief of staff.

Attempting to second-guess the sources of potential criticism, Slater said he was concerned mountain bikers would resist the wilderness expansion near Ketchum and Sun Valley. But Mark Deffe, co-owner of Sun Summit Ski and Cycle in Ketchum, said the area does not contain any trails that are near and dear to very many mountain bikers.

"Thereís really not a lot of stuff going on in Eagle Creek or Lake Creek," Deffe said. "Basically, that doesnít really have anything to do with mountain biking."

Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon offered his general approval of the proposed expansion.

"It sounds like a smart move," he said. "I have to compliment him (Simpson). At least heís making changes in response, but without seeing the changes, I canít comment on the entire project."

Slater said the congressman plans to introduce the legislation, pending a few more changes, immediately following Congressí August recess. Congress resumes Sept. 7, he said.

Simpsonís entire package, called the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, includes wilderness designation and motorized recreation development throughout the Boulder and White Cloud mountains, as well as land trades for Custer County that will be used as a localized economic development package.

But the Hemingway Wilderness Area is not the only change Simpson announced for his proposal, which he first released at the end of June.

Fourth of July basin in the White Cloud Mountains will be taken out of the proposed wilderness and would remain open to snowmobiling during the winter. During summer months, however, it would be managed as a de-facto wilderness, precluding motorized and mechanized access.

"Basically, the snowmobilers demonstrated that it is a critical area for them to recreate in during the winter," Slater said.

Additionally, and specifically in response to a comment made at a public hearing in Ketchum last month, the approximately 1-mile trail climbing to Fourth of July Lake will be built to accommodate wheelchairs.

The legislation would also create three off-highway-vehicle motorized recreation parks near Boise, Twin Falls and Pocatello. Land would be transferred from the Bureau of Land Management to the state of Idaho "if the state chooses to participate," according to a copy of the changes.

"Each area would include a beginner track to teach safe, responsible riding techniques as well as areas for different skill levels," Simpson wrote.

Simpson has also abandoned a controversial plan to build a motorized recreation trail from Phyllis Lake to Washington Basin in the White Cloud Mountains.

"Geographically, it just appears it would be impractical to put the trail in at this point," Slater said.

Approximately 10,000 acres in the north of Herd Creek road in the eastern White Cloud Mountain foothills will be removed from wilderness consideration.

"These initial changes, additions and deletions are in response to the comments that I heard at the town hall meetings in Ketchum, Stanley and Challis and the written comments I received at my offices," Simpson wrote. "I have been impressed with the substance and volume of the comments. They speak well to the passion that Idahoans have for the Boulder-White Clouds and their use and enjoyment of the area."

Simpson said the changes are the first of several rounds he anticipates.

"I will be releasing more in the coming weeks as I continue to hear from people regarding their concerns, use and needs for the area," he wrote.

Slater said his boss has received between 300 and 400 written comments on his proposal so far. He added that Simpson is taking notes and writing responses to each of those.

For Deffe, who enjoys mountain bike riding throughout Central Idaho and particularly in the White Cloud Mountains, Simpsonís proposal is a difficult thing to swallow.

"I try not to be selfish, but Iím having a hard time," he said. "Iím not anti-wilderness. Iím still just not sure why we donít get to ride."

Deffe pointed out that wilderness is not very good for his business and worried that designation might actually attract more people to the two rugged mountain ranges.

"Itís almost like a national park," he said. "You put a label on it, and itís almost like it draws more people because it has wilderness attached to it."

Simon, meanwhile, said thereís still room to improve as long as Simpson has his ears open.

"Youíre never going to make everyone happy," the mayor said. "But as long as thereís a continuing dialogue, we have everything to gain and nothing to lose."


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