The sights of Boulder-White Clouds, possibly Idaho's next National Monument

In the upper Salmon River region of central Idaho, the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains preside over a patch of rocky wild land that harbors bighorn sheep, black bears, mountain goats and elk. Here, a new national monument could preserve thousands of acres for generations of sportsmen, hikers and sightseers to come.

Protecting this land is not a new idea. Slightly to the east of the existing Sawtooth Wilderness Area, the Boulder-White Clouds have been the subject of conservation efforts for many years. A bill referred to a House subcommittee in early 2013 would protect more than 332,000 acres, but it and similar efforts have stalled repeatedly thanks to an intransigent Congress. If those lawmakers can’t get the job done, it may be time to call on the White House, which, working closely with in-state grassroots leaders, can designate a portion of the area as a national monument under the Antiquities Act.

Ask President Obama to protect Boulder-White Clouds

President Barack Obama promised to use this authority when necessary in his most recent State of the Union address, to “protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.” Partly thanks to the support and input of people like you, the president made good on that pledge in March by adding the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands to the California Coastal National Monument. Now, it is time to ask him to protect another amazing wild place

Prominent Idahoans, including former governor Cecil Andrus, have already voiced their support for the idea of a national monument in Boulder-White Clouds. In addition to preserving beautiful landscape, protecting this area would boost the economy of nearby counties by up to $12 million annually. One of the largest intact roadless areas in the country that lacks permanent protection, the Boulder White Clouds remains vulnerable without a national monument designation. 

Take a look at some of the sights in this majestic pocket of nature, and send a message asking President Obama to give it the protection it deserves.

All photos by Ed Cannady Photography.

Credit: Ed Cannady Photography

The tallest mountain in the White Cloud range (and the entire Sawtooth National Recreation Area) is Castle Peak, an Idaho icon at about 11,815 feet. It towers above nearby summits, offering a once-in-a-lifetime panoramic view of the surrounding land, including more than two dozen lakes reportedly visible from its summit. Just as tremendous as its physical presence is the place it holds in backpackers’ lore; Castle Peaks’ craggy surface is considered a major challenge not lightly undertaken.

 

Credit: Ed Cannady Photography

Additionally, Castle Peak was the center of a decades-old debate that helped define Idaho’s wild character for years to come, as a proposed open-pit metal mine triggered an outcry from local conservationists. This led to the designation of the greater Sawtooth National Recreation Area, protecting the area from mining and other activities that might significantly change the landscape.

 

Credit: Ed Cannady Photography

The White Clouds, so-named for the way their snow-capped peaks mingle with the sky overhead, are a 22-mile stretch of multi-hued mountains twisting north of the Boulder range like a rocky antler. Speckled with clear high-elevation lakes and patches of alpine woodland, the area gets fewer visitors than some nearby public lands but is a favorite of hikers in the know.

 

Credit: Ed Cannady Photography

Containing at least 12 mountain summits taller than 11,000 feet, the Boulder Mountains are no less spectacular. They are one of Idaho’s most impressive ranges and a popular destination for hikers within the proposed monument area. The summit of Ryan Peak is the tallest point in the Boulders.

 

Credit: Ed Cannady Photography

Many may consider mountains to be the main draw of this region, but the Boulder-White Clouds reportedly contain over 120 different lakes, including some of the highest elevation lakes in the state.

 

Credit: Ed Cannady Photography

Likely the most iconic lakes in the region are the clear, scenic Boulder Chain Lakes. The highest-elevation of these is the evocatively-named Lonesome Lake, one of the highest-altitude named lakes in the state and a solitary refuge.

 

Credit: Ed Cannady Photography

That's not the only noteworthy body of water in the Boulder-White Clouds region. A bit to the west of the Boulder Mountains, the East Fork of the Salmon River comprises the highest-altitude spawning grounds for salmon and steelhead in the continental U.S. and a crucial habitat for bull trout, Wood River sculpin and other species. The Salmon River is one of the largest in the U.S., and is considered a cradle of life in the greater Columbia River Basin.

 

Credit: Ed Cannady Photography

In addition to significant hunting, fishing and hiking resources, Boulder-White Clouds is a great spot for camping and shorter, more family-friendly backpacking expeditions. Pictured above is a tent pitched near Pika Lake.

 

Credit: Ed Cannady Photography

Of course, Boulder-White Clouds does not only provide refuge for people. It also contains delicately-balanced habitat for wildlife including mule deer, elk, moose, black bears, wolverines and mountain lions. No matter where you look, nature abounds.

Though Boulder-White Clouds is a place with obvious value to Idahoans and all Americans, Congress has repeatedly stalled in bipartisan efforts meant to protect it. Undertaken with the input of state leaders, a monument designation would preserve valid existing rights, and activities like hunting, biking and other recreation would be allowed to continue. It is time for the White House to take action and preserve this unique wild area for generations to come.

Ask President Obama to follow in the footsteps of Teddy Roosevelt and protect Boulder-White Clouds