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Current News & Issues: Wilderness


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This opinion piece was signed by Linn Kincannon, central Idaho director, Idaho Conservation League; Lynne Stone, executive director, Boulder-White Clouds Council; Norma Douglas, outreach coordinator, The Wilderness Society; Tom Pomeroy, wilderness advocate; Rick Johnson, executive director, Idaho Conservation League; Craig Gehrke, regional director, The Wilderness Society; and Rep. Wendy Jaquet, Idaho House Minority Leader.

The rest of the Boulder-White Clouds story - Wilderness leaders respond to false statements about CIEDRA


September 28, 2005

Mountain Express

Ketchum Idaho

Dear Editor:

The Sept. 16 opinion piece on Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson's Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA), which would designate wilderness in the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains, did not tell the whole story.

It's not true that CIEDRA cuts away the eastern half of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA). It is true that there would be one change in the management of that area: Most of the trails that are currently open to motorcycles and mountain bikes in the eastern half of the SNRA will remain so by legislation, and the Forest Service will not be allowed to close those trails. But, the trails in the area have been used by motorcycles for over 30 years, and the Forest Service has not curtailed use or closed trails in all that time.

Importantly, here's the rest of the story. The trail from the West Fork of the East Fork Salmon River to Bowery Guard Station would be closed by Simpson's legislation and the length of that wild valley will become wilderness. Non-motorized trails like Champion Lakes, South Fork Champion Creek, Heart Lakes/Six Lakes Basin, and Phyllis Lake, will remain non-motorized, although they are outside the proposed White Cloud Wilderness. Additionally, the trail to Fourth of July Lake and Washington Lake from Fourth of July trailhead will be closed to summer motorized use, bringing peace and quiet for family hikers, horsemen, anglers and wildlife. And no more motorized trails may be built. Not the picture painted by opponents of CIEDRA.

The erosion and ruts on Bowery Cut-off identified in the op-ed as motorized damage have also been badly impacted by years of livestock grazing, as cattle are trailed up to "Cow Heaven" just short of the divide. A provision of CIEDRA would end grazing in the proposed wilderness, as ranchers willingly move their cows out of the area permanently, resulting in improved conditions for the land, fish, wildlife, and recreationists.

We still have concerns about CIEDRAówe oppose the land transfers, particularly those near Stanley, and favor direct appropriations to the counties to aid in economic development. We are awaiting a final Travel Plan map and detailed Wilderness boundary mapóboth are promised soon. We will continue to work on these issues.

What alternatives do opponents of the bill offer? This is the best opportunity in 25 years to protect the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains. Continuing to wait is a bad strategy. Some 300,000 acres of wilderness with alpine lakes, high peaks, and remote wildlife habitat will keep us talking with Rep. Simpson and working for a bill we can support.

(Editor's Note: The Sept. 16 opinion piece was submitted by John Osborn, of Spokane, the Sierra Club's conservation chair for Idaho and eastern Washington, and Douglas Christensen, of Ketchum, a Sawtooth Society board member.)

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