Boulder-White Clouds bill goes to Washington

Boulder-White Clouds in Idaho. Photo by Craig Gehrke.

Last week, Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch introduced the Boulder-White Clouds wilderness legislation formally called The Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act or CIEDRA. Idaho Congressmen Mike Simpson and Walt Minnick have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives, which grew from earlier versions that had originally been introduced by Rep. Simpson. The current legislation designates 330,000 acres of wilderness in three separate wilderness areas: White Cloud Wilderness, Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness, and Jerry Peak Wilderness.

CIEDRA is an effort to arrive at a compromise that is uncommon in Washington DC these days. The legislation attempts to balance the interests of wilderness supporters with those of motorized recreationists and rural county officials. Throughout this effort, The Wilderness Society and local partners have worked to ensure that the most sensitive places are protected as wilderness.

The journey of Boulder-White Clouds began in 1972 with legislation that created Sawtooth Wilderness and National Recreation Area, a 228,000 acre wilderness study area. While this was a first achievement, the land remained threatened as the U.S. Forest Service continued to permit off-road vehicle use within the wilderness study area that threatened the wild character of the landscape.

Then, in the 1980’s two unsuccessful attempts were made to designate only about 150,000 acres as wilderness in the Boulder-White Clouds. This small acreage was separated by non-wilderness swathes of land to permit motorized use. Conservationists did not support those efforts which protected so little of these spectacular mountains. Now, more than 20 years later, this latest version promotes protection of a much more ecologically sound, unfragmented protected wilderness area.

Today, Idahoans appreciate the vast benefits Boulder-White Cloud has to offer. CIEDRA will enable future generations to explore and experience what their parents and grandparents worked to save. As Boulder-White Clouds approaches this next milestone, The Wilderness Society is looking forward to working with local stakeholders to protect this treasured land.

photo: Boulder-White Clouds in Idaho. By Craig Gehrke.