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Ketchum, Idaho 83340

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Current News & Issues: Wilderness


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The following is Idaho Conservation League/Linn Kincannon's response to Frankenstein Wilderness editorial.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Let's keep talking with Rep. Simpson

Guest opinion by Linn Kincannon
Linn Kincannon is the Central Idaho Director for the Idaho Conservation League.

The Idaho Conservation League would like to offer a different viewpoint from that expressed in your recent Boulder-White Clouds wilderness editorial. We are deeply concerned by and opposed to parts of Congressman Mike Simpson's central Idaho framework, but we find enough good in it to keep talking.

The Congressman proposes nearly 300,000 acres of wilderness almost all in two large, unbroken pieces--220,000 acres stretching from Galena to the Jerry Peak country on the east side (that's about the size of the Sawtooth Wilderness), and 70,000 in the alpine lakes and valleys of the west side. The proposed wilderness boundary is much larger than the last two congressional efforts over a decade ago: the first proposal was 150,000 acres, the second only 89,000 acres with two motorized routes dividing it.

If designated, these areas will be wilderness in every sense of the word and the Wilderness Act; and important habitat for salmon, steelhead, elk, wolves, and bears, as well as quiet recreation opportunities, will be protected for the future. Those values would be further enhanced by a purchase of grazing permits and removal of livestock from many thousands of acres. And Congressman Simpson has said publicly that he will add more land to the wilderness before he's through.

The two areas would be divided by a single-track motorcycle trail where one exists today. Idaho's Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness is also divided by an avenue for motorized recreation--the Salmon River is open to jet boats as it winds through the wilderness. That's one of the compromises Idaho Sen. Frank Church reached in order to designate wilderness there. Today, most Idahoans are very glad to have that wonderful wilderness for themselves and their children--even though it took compromise to get it.

Other trails in the Boulder-White Clouds that are already open to motorcycles and snowmobiles would remain open outside the wilderness. This includes Washington Basin--it's already open. Champion Lakes is the exception and here the Mountain Express got it right. Champion Lakes should remain closed to motors, as it is today.

As we judge Simpson's Boulder-White Clouds efforts, we have to factor in that registration of motorcycles and ATV's in Idaho has quadrupled in the last decade, with last year's total at over 71,000. The vision the Mountain Express painted for us may happen anyway, with or without wilderness designation.

The Idaho Conservation League continues to work for a bill we can support. We're not there yet, but we haven't given up. Thank you to everyone who spoke about wilderness at the recent town hall meetings and sent comments to Rep. Mike Simpson about Champion Lakes and other issues of concern. For more information, visit our Web site at or call our Ketchum office at 726-7485.

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