The following article appeared in the Idaho Mountain Express for
July 23, 2004.
Wilderness falls on Ketchumís doorstep -- Simpson revises plan for
By Greg Stahl, Express Staff Writer
As a Central Idaho hunter and flyfisherman, Ernest Hemingway likely would
have been proud to hear that a new wilderness area adjacent to Ketchum and
Sun Valley might bear his name.
In revising his wilderness proposal for the Boulder and White Cloud
mountains, Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, has announced he hopes to designate
an additional 40,000 acres of road-free country immediately northeast of
Ketchum and Sun Valley as wilderness.
The area, to be called the Hemingway Wilderness Area, would include some
lands currently administered by the Bureau of Land Managementís Shoshone
Field Office and others that are administered by the Sawtooth National
According to the new proposal, released Thursday, July 22, the additional
wilderness area would include Amber lakes, Goat Creek, Konrad Creek,
Murdock Creek and the upper reaches of Eagle and Lake creeks, including
the ridgelines between the two valleys north of Ketchum.
Trail Creek would serve as the wilderness boundary on the north side of
Trail Creek Road.
Although he is proposing deletion of some other areas as wilderness in the
White Clouds, the addition of the Hemingway Wilderness Area would bring
the total acreage in Simpsonís new proposal to close to 400,000 acres,
said Lindsay Slater, Simpsonís chief of staff.
Attempting to second-guess the sources of potential criticism, Slater said
he was concerned mountain bikers would resist the wilderness expansion
near Ketchum and Sun Valley. But Mark Deffe, co-owner of Sun Summit Ski
and Cycle in Ketchum, said the area does not contain any trails that are
near and dear to very many mountain bikers.
"Thereís really not a lot of stuff going on in Eagle Creek or Lake Creek,"
Deffe said. "Basically, that doesnít really have anything to do with
Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon offered his general approval of the proposed
"It sounds like a smart move," he said. "I have to compliment him
(Simpson). At least heís making changes in response, but without seeing
the changes, I canít comment on the entire project."
Slater said the congressman plans to introduce the legislation, pending a
few more changes, immediately following Congressí August recess. Congress
resumes Sept. 7, he said.
Simpsonís entire package, called the Central Idaho Economic Development
and Recreation Act, includes wilderness designation and motorized
recreation development throughout the Boulder and White Cloud mountains,
as well as land trades for Custer County that will be used as a localized
economic development package.
But the Hemingway Wilderness Area is not the only change Simpson announced
for his proposal, which he first released at the end of June.
Fourth of July basin in the White Cloud Mountains will be taken out of the
proposed wilderness and would remain open to snowmobiling during the
winter. During summer months, however, it would be managed as a de-facto
wilderness, precluding motorized and mechanized access.
"Basically, the snowmobilers demonstrated that it is a critical area for
them to recreate in during the winter," Slater said.
Additionally, and specifically in response to a comment made at a public
hearing in Ketchum last month, the approximately 1-mile trail climbing to
Fourth of July Lake will be built to accommodate wheelchairs.
The legislation would also create three off-highway-vehicle motorized
recreation parks near Boise, Twin Falls and Pocatello. Land would be
transferred from the Bureau of Land Management to the state of Idaho "if
the state chooses to participate," according to a copy of the changes.
"Each area would include a beginner track to teach safe, responsible
riding techniques as well as areas for different skill levels," Simpson
Simpson has also abandoned a controversial plan to build a motorized
recreation trail from Phyllis Lake to Washington Basin in the White Cloud
"Geographically, it just appears it would be impractical to put the trail
in at this point," Slater said.
Approximately 10,000 acres in the north of Herd Creek road in the eastern
White Cloud Mountain foothills will be removed from wilderness
"These initial changes, additions and deletions are in response to the
comments that I heard at the town hall meetings in Ketchum, Stanley and
Challis and the written comments I received at my offices," Simpson wrote.
"I have been impressed with the substance and volume of the comments. They
speak well to the passion that Idahoans have for the Boulder-White Clouds
and their use and enjoyment of the area."
Simpson said the changes are the first of several rounds he anticipates.
"I will be releasing more in the coming weeks as I continue to hear from
people regarding their concerns, use and needs for the area," he wrote.
Slater said his boss has received between 300 and 400 written comments on
his proposal so far. He added that Simpson is taking notes and writing
responses to each of those.
For Deffe, who enjoys mountain bike riding throughout Central Idaho and
particularly in the White Cloud Mountains, Simpsonís proposal is a
difficult thing to swallow.
"I try not to be selfish, but Iím having a hard time," he said. "Iím not
anti-wilderness. Iím still just not sure why we donít get to ride."
Deffe pointed out that wilderness is not very good for his business and
worried that designation might actually attract more people to the two
rugged mountain ranges.
"Itís almost like a national park," he said. "You put a label on it, and
itís almost like it draws more people because it has wilderness attached
Simon, meanwhile, said thereís still room to improve as long as Simpson
has his ears open.
"Youíre never going to make everyone happy," the mayor said. "But as long
as thereís a continuing dialogue, we have everything to gain and nothing