By Bethine Church.
Attack on wilderness bill held inaccuracies
October 5, 2005
Doug Christensen is a longtime friend, and he has served on the Sawtooth
Society board of directors for several years. But Doug is off base in his
implicit attack on the society and his claims about the proposed
Boulder-White Clouds wilderness legislation, called the Central Idaho
Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA).
The centerpiece of Doug's guest opinion, printed in the Oct. 3 issue of
The Idaho Statesman, is the astonishing assertion that the bill would "cut
away the Boulder-White Clouds portion of the Sawtooth NRA, some 370,000
acres." This is simply not so, and it is distressing to hear Doug make
such a claim. To the contrary, the bill expressly maintains the SNRA, and
all of its protections, for the portion of the Boulder-White Clouds within
the SNRA that would not be wilderness and instead would be encompassed in
the bill's "management area" designation.
Perhaps Doug did not read the most recent version of the bill, which
contains at least a half-dozen provisions requiring that those portions of
the proposed management area that are within the SNRA be managed in
accordance with SNRA protections. For example, section 301(b) of the bill
states that "if lands in the management area are also included in the
Sawtooth National Recreation Area," the lands "shall" be administered "in
accordance with Public Law 92-400" — that is, in accordance with the SNRA
Another problem with Doug's letter is that it states that the bill would
"give away 2,000-3,000 acres of public lands, including SNRA lands." This
is extremely misleading, and may leave the impression that the bill seeks
transfer of hundreds or even thousands of acres within the SNRA. Again,
The Sawtooth Society does not like the idea of land transfers. However, if
the political reality is that a successful bill will involve a transfer,
we have insisted that any SNRA land transferred for residential
development must be less than 100 acres in the aggregate, must be
contiguous to already developed property, and must be encumbered with deed
restrictions that meet or exceed SNRA standards. The bill meets these
requirements. The bill identifies two parcels, both adjacent to Stanley,
totaling 94 acres.
A later-added non-residential parcel, some 68 acres (also adjacent to
Stanley), is proposed for affordable employee housing. In other words, the
bill proposes to transfer 162 acres of SNRA land in or adjacent to
Stanley, not hundreds or thousands. The restrictions the bill imposes for
these lands are more stringent than those in the original SNRA law. Folks
can differ about land transfers, but with these conditions included, we
think the bill is an acceptable compromise to obtain the other benefits of
the bill, including Boulder-White Clouds wilderness and reductions in
motorized vehicle and grazing use of large portions of the area.
As a society, we have worked with Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson to protect the
Sawtooth National Recreation Area in every instance. Bob Hayes, our
executive director, has given endless hours to ensure that the rules that
manage the SNRA are followed in any bill that is enacted on this subject.
Former U.S. Sen. James McClure and Rep. Orval Hansen and Gov. Cecil
Andrus, each of whom was instrumental in the passage of the original SNRA
bill, agree with me that the Simpson bill protects the integrity of the
original SNRA law.
When I retired as president of the Sawtooth Society in July, I said that
my voice would still be heard. I just didn't realize how soon. I'm doing
this for the sake of clarification and for the society.
Bethine Church, of Boise, is the wife of the late U.S. Sen. Frank