Leave The White Clouds Alone

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Idaho Falls Post Register

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Guest Opinion by Adena Cook


Idaho's congressional delegation is playing games with one of the state's most pristine places, writes Adena Cook.


Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch recently introduced Congressman Mike Simpson's Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA) in the Senate. Idaho's entire congressional delegation is now supporting this bill that designates 332,775 new acres of wilderness in the Boulder White Clouds (BWC).


Simpson has promoted this bill for nearly 10 years, yet has never clearly demonstrated the need for more wilderness. The BWC are already protected by the Sawtooth National Recreation Area enacted in 1972. The SNRA established 217,000 acres of wilderness in the Sawtooths and strong protection for the scenic BWC that also allowed snowmobiling, mountain bicycling and a few motorcycle trails. It was a compromise. If CIEDRA passes, the SNRA, with 69 percent locked up, will be a wilderness, not a recreation area.


I don't oppose wilderness, but we've already got 4 million acres in Idaho. The Frank Church, right next to the SNRA, has 2.36 million acres. In order to assess Congressman Simpson's constituents' opinion on BWC wilderness, the Terrance Group conducted a poll of likely Republican voters. Seventy percent were opposed. They said, loud and clear, "Enough is enough, leave the Boulder White Clouds alone."


Access in these beautiful lands is priceless and cannot be substituted. As a new snowmobiler in the mid-1980s, friends took me on a ride to the top of Hominy Peak, just over the Wyoming border, not far from Ashton.


We followed a snow-covered road to a summer trail, winding up through the trees. Soon we broke out into the open and followed a gentle ridge to the top. Suddenly, the entire Teton Range spread right in front of me. There I was, seemingly face to face with the Grand Teton. I was breathless. I bowed my head in prayer. When I recall the trip, I thank God for the privilege of that experience. Hominy Peak is now in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness. I can't visit there unless I submit to the wilderness dogma.


We have so few of these spectacular lands left, we must protect access to every acre, every mile. In the BWC, all of the acres will be lost to snowmobilers. Mountain bicyclists lose over 80 miles of trail. Trail motorcycles lose a magnificent experience that can't be measured.


Congressman Simpson has already earmarked CIEDRA's payouts in the Interior Appropriations Bill. Exemplifying insider politics, Sens. Crapo and Risch introduced the bill in the Senate in spite of our pleas. These Beltway games can be seductive, but who could have imagined it would happen here. They need to listen to their constituents. Precious memories of trips to the BWC should not be in our past. They need to be part of everyone's future.


Cook is a consultant with the BlueRibbon Coalition.

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