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Boulder-White Clouds Council
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Ketchum, Idaho 83340

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Current News & Issues: Wilderness


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Wilderness bill does not threaten SNRA management


October 7, 2005
Idaho Mountain Express, Ketchum ID
Guest opinion

Rep. Mike Simpson, a Republican, represents Idaho's 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
It's not often that I respond to letters in newspapers. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if they do not agree with mine. However, I find it necessary to respond to a letter I have recently read in Idaho newspapers regarding Bethine Church and the Sawtooth Society.

As many of your readers know, I have introduced the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA). The bill is a carefully balanced compromise that seeks to protect the needs of the people who live and recreate in the Boulder-White Clouds while creating a substantive wilderness. It's unique in that we are trying to be inclusive and recognize the needs of motorized users, the community surrounding it, the ranchers who live in the area, even creating new opportunities such as a first of its kind "primitive access wheelchair trail" into the wilderness.

The scope and breadth of the bill is one of its greatest detriments in that it provides an opportunity for individuals to read, interpret and disseminate their views in any manner they see fit. To this end, I have heard that my bill will both create a "motorized Disneyland" and in the alternative "prohibit all motorized activity."

There are many things being said about CIEDRA, but some of the things I know for sure are:

  • Bethine Church has, and will continue to be, one of the greatest advocates and defenders the Sawtooth National Recreation Area has known. Bethine's concerns are with the lands in the SNRA and she recognizes that as part of the overall compromise, 162 SNRA acres adjacent to Stanley are a small price to pay to create a 300,000-acre wilderness in the Boulder-White Clouds. With respect to these 162 acres, the land is being made available to aid the local economy with significant deed restrictions to assure that the SNRA's special qualities are protected.

There will not be an increase beyond existing motorized roads or motorized trails as a result of my legislation. With the exception of closing one motorized trail and two segments of motorized trails, the SNRA travel map will remain as it is today with the requirement that if roads or trails are impeded they shall be fixed or placed in a manner that will allow continued access to traditional recreation areas or trailheads.

By its name, the SNRA is a "recreation area" that encompasses many uses. Today and into the future, we will not deprive traditional recreation users for the benefit of others. The bottom line is that there will not be new motorized trails or roads beyond what are used today. My goal has been to maintain the status quo as close as possible so all can use and enjoy the SNRA.

The lands will continue to be called the SNRA and the management plan of the SNRA will not change with the exception of locking the existing SNRA management plan into place.

Finally, Bethine Church and the Sawtooth Society have been and will continue to be the public stewards of the SNRA. I want to thank them for having the foresight to recognize the potential of CIEDRA for the community, for those who recreate in the Boulder-White Clouds, and most importantly for the environment. Their commitment to the SNRA has not wavered and their vision for the future ensures a healthy, protected SNRA that can be enjoyed by future generations of Idahoans.


Editor's note: Bethine Church, of Boise, is the president of the Sawtooth Society. She is the widow of former Idaho Sen. Frank Church, after whom Idaho's Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness is named.

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