“Simpson’s SNRA land trades [transfers] are a bad bargain” – Guest Opinion
by Evelyn Phillips.
Simpson’s SNRA land trades are a bad bargain
By Evelyn Phillips, Hailey Idaho
Guest Opinion, Mountain Express newspaper, Ketchum Idaho
I want to speak up about the proposed Central Idaho wilderness bill that
Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, is going to present to Congress, and
specifically about his proposed trade of federal land within the Sawtooth
National Recreation Area.
To make wilderness designation of the Boulder-White Cloud mountains more
palatable to some, Simpson wants to open up land to private development
including a 162-acres parcel that sits above Stanley.
A narrow-mined editorial last week in the Wood River Journal took issue
with a bunch of NIMBYs (not in my backyard) who are protesting such a
trade, stating that this small group of Stanley residents, some of them
current or retired state and federal land natural resource managers, wants
to keep Custer County from making any money off the wilderness deal.
This editorial contends that these residents cite “potential impact on the
Stanley Basin elk herds”, but really want to put up a gate and prevent
anyone else from enjoying the beautiful views they have.
How ridiculous! I am protesting this land trade and I live in Hailey. I’m
not even going to bring up the elk issue; the point is that we’re talking
about land that was designated a national recreation area precisely to
prevent the kind of development this trade would allow.
The same editorial went on to conclude that if such a trade is not
forthcoming “the region is likely to remain a remote playground except for
the publicly employed land managers who live there.”
What nonsense is this? The “region” happens to be the Sawtooth National
Recreation Area, created in 1972 by an act of Congress with a mandate to
protect the scenic and recreational values for everyone. It has been a
playground for me since I moved here in the 1970s and I have never felt
excluded from any part of it.
When I first moved here in 1972 as a young reporter, I had the Forest
Service and the newly designated SNRA as my beat. The managers then, and
Tom Kovalicky especially, spent time explaining to me the importance of
preserving these recreational and scenic values, and a lot of money was
spent to purchase development rights from ranchers in the Stanley Basin
and Sawtooth Valley.
To reverse this process now is extremely shortsighted and selfish. How can
such a land trade benefit anybody but a bunch of land developers and those
with the kind of money that those lots will sell for?
I understand there are wetland and wildlife concerns, too. But even more
important is the legacy that we should be leaving to the future of