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Current News & Issues: Wilderness


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BY LYNNE K. STONE, Director, Boulder-White Clouds Council, Stanley.


A kinder view toward CIEDRA's plans for wilderness, by Lynne Stone, A response to John Rember's recent opinion in the Challis Messenger.


September 29, 2005

Challis Messenger
Guest Opinion

In response to John Rember’s guest opinion last week, those of us seeking Congressionally-designated Wilderness for the 550,000 acre Boulder-White Cloud Mountains HAVE considered “unintended consequences”. One consequence, he says, is that Wilderness will bring more people to the White Clouds.

Wilderness or not, more people are already coming and others will follow. Waiting and not designating Wilderness will have far more serious “unintended consequences” as new technology enables users of motorized and mechanized machines to travel into primitive places that formerly were inaccessible to them. It’s happening now with ATV’s, snowmachines and mountain bikes.

Rep. Mike Simpson has tried to forge a compromise among different interest groups on the Boulder-White Clouds issue. The Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA) is the result. The bill has changed significantly in some areas over the past 15 months.

CIEDRA would protect over 300,000 acres as Wilderness. Here increased human use would be on foot, horse or mule.

The White Cloud, Hemmingway and Jerry Peak Wilderness areas would be places where wildlife, human families and future generations could experience a vanishing concept on our planet: peace and quiet. The Jerry Peak Wilderness south of Challis would especially offer early season hiking, wildlife viewing opportunities and wonderful, quiet vistas.

Land prices in the Wood River and Sawtooth Valleys will continue to go up, regardless if CIEDRA passes or not. Sun Valley’s world class ski mountain and countless other amenities will continue to attract people. Challis is closer than Ketchum to large designated Wilderness.

I don’t see many “idle young folks” lured by Wilderness hanging about Challis. There aren’t many in the Wood River Valley. If and when, someone builds a major ski resort two minutes from main street Challis, that’s when the trophy home builders, developers and realtors will flock in. Not because of White Clouds Wilderness.

The bill’s worst and most controversial element is the SNRA land giveaway on Valley Creek near Stanley to Custer County and the city for development. This land transfer should be yanked from the bill.

Valley Creek has salmon spawning and rearing waters, crucial elk winter range, and wetlands for resident and migrating birds. But, CIEDRA is far from a done deal and the battle for Valley Creek is not over. The fight to prevent other public lands from being sold off, whether in Idaho or somewhere else in the West, will continue whether CIEDRA flies or dies.

Contrary to John’s comments, the current revised CIEDRA bill does not direct motorbikes or mountain bikes onto new routes near or through wilderness. Those trails exist now. Germania Creek trail is motorized now. Frog Lake-Little Boulder trail is motorized now. Germania Creek would separate the White Cloud and Ernest Hemmingway-Boulder Wilderness areas. I’d prefer to see all 550,000 acres as Wilderness. But CIEDRA is a compromise worked out between factions who have different mindsets and values toward our public lands.

A word about the 217,088 acre Sawtooth Wilderness. With a little effort and avoiding the popular lakes during the six week high season -- when most people who love wilderness are indeed using it, one can find solitude. Go now!

Wilderness does have some pesky rules like pack out what you packed in, no soap in lakes or streams, camp away from lake shores, and leave only footsteps and take only memories.

As for being heavily policed? Artificial and bureaucratic? I’ll have to try and find these nasty wilderness characteristics the next time I’m in Flytrip Basin or Little Spangle or upper Hell Roaring. Always seemed like paradise to me.

Finally, I was unaware that Challis and nearby towns (Clayton and Mackay?) were “booming” because of higher moly prices. Maybe Custer County doesn’t need after all, the $5 million that CIEDRA would provide for economic development and infrastructure.

For me, the potential of achieving 300,000 acres of peace and quiet, forever, for my son and his children and all the generations to come, is worth staying in the CIEDRA process.


Stone has lived in central Idaho for 25 years and is the author of "Adventures in Idaho's Sawtooth Country", a hiking and mountain bike guide, published by The Mountaineers.

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