Reintroduction of Boulder-White Clouds Bill is No Improvement for Wilderness Lovers, Wildlife; Core wildlife areas at risk from increased motorized uses under the Simpson-Risch bill

Feb 26, 2015
A new version of Rep. Mike Simpson’s Boulder White Clouds wilderness bill, formerly the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, fails to provide the needed measure of protection for an area prized by sportsmen and outdoor recreationists.

The bill, jointly introduced by Rep. Simpson and Senator Jim Risch (R), eliminates important wild areas that have been recommended for wilderness protection by the U.S. Forest Service for nearly 30 years and significantly reduces the wilderness acreage designation from previous legislative versions, lopping off areas to cater to motorized recreation and heli-skiing.

“We couldn’t be more supportive of the Idaho delegation talking and working together, but the solution they’ve come up with doesn’t provide the level of protection this area deserves,” said Craig Gehrke, Idaho Director for The Wilderness Society in Boise. “The Boulder-White Clouds have been down this legislative road numerous times over the past 40 years, and it’s not an area that deserves death by a thousand cuts. It’s time to finally provide this whole area the protection it needs. A national monument designation appears to be surest way to protect the integrity of this premier area.”

The new legislative proposal removes about 58,000 acres of proposed wilderness from earlier bills, specifically carving off chunks of proposed wilderness in order to provide for off-road vehicle trails that once would have been closed by wilderness designation along the East Fork Salmon River and in the East Fork’s headwaters. Conservationists and sportsmen have long argued for wilderness in these areas to protect water quality and wildlife from the impacts of off-road vehicles.

“Over 85 percent of public lands in Idaho are already open to motorized use, and the Boulder-White Clouds are one of the few places left where hikers, hunters, anglers and other recreational users can recreate without the noise of motors,” said Rob Mason, Idaho Representative for The Wilderness Society. “Permanently allowing motorized use in agency-recommended wilderness sets a terrible precedent for the future of our remaining Idaho wildlands that offer premier hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching opportunities in the lower 48 states.”

The Boulder-White Clouds in central Idaho is the largest unprotected, wild roadless area on national forest lands outside of Alaska. The Wilderness Society is continuing to encourage Administration officials to visit the Boulder-White Clouds area this spring, meet with locals and hear why the area deserves immediate protection. In January, 44 former staffers who worked for the late Senator Frank Church sent a letter to the Administration supporting a national monument designation for the area. Read more about support for the monument at www.boulderwhiteclouds.org.

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The Wilderness Society is the leading wild public lands conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than 500,000 members and supporters, TWS has led the effort to permanently protect 110 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org

Contacts:

Craig Gehrke, Idaho State Director, (208) 343-8513, craig_gehrke@tws.org

Rob Mason, Central Idaho Representative, (208) 343-8513, rob_mason@tws.org