By Adena Cook
Controversy over the proposed Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act that designates Wilderness in the Boulder-White Clouds intensified last week. The proposal was formally considered at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing June 16, after being given a stamp of approval by Idaho's Senators, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo.
On behalf of the state, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter wrote a strongly worded letter opposing CIEDRA, asking that it be read into the record. He took this position only after state agencies had carefully reviewed CIEDRA and submitted comments.
The governor correctly stated that CIEDRA provides, "little, if any, additional protection for these special areas, their character and the landscape."
He noted that the BWC is not only protected from future development by the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, but also by the Idaho Roadless Rule, which assigns the BWC to the Wildlands Recreation Management theme.
This theme's management prescriptions focus on protection and are similar to Wilderness management, except they do not expressly prohibit motorized or mechanized use. Where these uses exist now, they are allowed to continue subject to the Forest Service review process. Motorized or mechanized uses cannot be expanded in these areas.
Otter observed that Idaho has 3,700 acres of endowment land that will be affected, and the constitutional mandate to provide for Idaho's schools will be compromised. State management of wildlife will also be negatively impacted.
The governor agreed that economic development is needed in Custer County and special areas need protection. He questioned whether "more wilderness areas and federal red-tape" will achieve these ends, observing that the Sawtooth Wilderness area at 217,000 acres and the Frank Church at 2.3 million acres are nearby.
Otter concluded: "I know there is a better way to achieve all of the protections necessary to preserve these areas, increase economic activity and recreational opportunities, without locking this land up under wilderness. My dream is for these areas to thrive economically and remain open to all existing uses and recreational opportunities so Idahoans can continue to access and enjoy these lands as they do today for generations to come."
After reviewing Otter's letter and receiving testimony, Risch noted publicly that the bill needs work before it can move. Reportedly, Crapo is organizing meetings this week to review objections and see if changes can be made.
Our congressional delegation should recognize that change has already come and Wilderness bills for Idaho are redundant. They need to pull CIEDRA.
Idaho's primitive wild lands are federally protected by the Idaho Roadless Rule. Wildlands Recreation management provides all the protection that should ever be needed. Thanks, Gov. Otter, for saying so. Thanks for your support for recreation access.
Cook is a consultant with the BlueRibbon Coalition.