I keep reading articles about how the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains in Idaho need protection. The obvious question, left unanswered, is “protection from what?”
To read the news accounts of this issue, dating back decades now, you have to find yourself believing that perhaps the Boulder-White Clouds is just a good neighborhood kid who simply had the misfortune of being born into the wrong family, and thus moved to the “bad side of town” — in this case, Idaho.
Had the Boulder-White Clouds been located in upstate New York, for example, the locals would have lavished heaps of loving onto these public lands, negating the need to “protect” it.
Several days ago, former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus, who served as Interior Secretary under President Jimmy Carter, recommended that the Obama Administration simply use the federal Antiquities Act to lock up the land. Andrus is apparently frustrated that it is taking so long to do something to block the local riff-raff who want the continued right to use this swath of public land.
Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson has repeatedly offered legislation to declare the land as “wilderness,” but nothing has, as of yet, passed Congress. A speedier remedy exists, as Andrus knows very well. Carter and Andrus, I hope you’ll remember, used the executive hammer and congressional coercion to designate national monuments and wilderness covering millions of acres.
Obama Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wants wilderness designation for Boulder-White Clouds but stopped shy of endorsing Andrus’ approach of using federal monument designation via the Antiquities Act for the 300,000 acres of Idaho land. Salazar, according to news accounts, says Idaho lacks “the groundswell of support” found in other states like Virginia, where Obama used the Antiquities Act to designate the Fort Monroe National Monument a month ago.
The reason Idaho lacks the groundswell of support for this move is because Idahoans know what it will mean: A loss of economic and recreational opportunity for our state and continued micro- and mismanagement by the federal government.
Simpson, who has been an unwavering proponent of the wilderness designation, reiterated his agreement with Salazar that it would be a mistake to declare the land a national monument, but he still wants to see the land declared wilderness.
Still, you have to be left wondering, again, protection from what? Protection from active forest management that prevents major wildfires and devastation by insects? Protection from the hikers and backpackers, the ATV riders and snowmobilers who have been successfully and responsibly been using the land all these years? Protection from the tax revenues that come from multiple use on Idaho’s public lands? Yes, yes and yes.
Back in 1968, a proposal to bring a molybdenum mine to Castle Peak shaped Idaho politics for decades to come and brought about the designation of the 750,000-acre Sawtooth National Recreation Area in the 1970s. It also put a stop to mining at Castle Peak. That and the 4 million acres of wilderness already available in our state are still not enough “protection” to suit the environmentalists, who will always want more and more. There will never be an end to the demands. After Boulder-White Clouds is designated, they’ll come for Scotchman Peaks along the Idaho-Montana border. After that, it will be the Clearwater Basin. After that, who knows?
Idahoans do a great job respecting and using the public lands in Idaho. Our lands don’t need more “protection.” We could, however, use protection from big government ideas like this one.
- Wayne Hoffman is the executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Email him at[email protected].