And what does it mean for mountain biking?
The debate between a national monument and a Wilderness designation has been in the news a lot lately due to Representative Simpson’s plan to re-introduce a modified version of CIEDRA, called SNRA+.
If you missed the past 15 years, CIEDRA (Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act) was Rep. Simpson’s Wilderness bill introduced almost a dozen times in Congress; Wilderness (such as nearby Sawtooth Wilderness) only allows primitive use, i.e. horseback riding and hiking only.
Unfortunately, Rep. Simpson’s modifications did not take into consideration mountain biking. This area boasts two of the quintessential big backcountry rides in all of Idaho. It also offers some of the more rugged and off-the-beaten-path rides. These are spectacular adventure rides and are essential to maintaining our riding diversity, not only for locals, but also for our community as a riding destination and for future generations to appreciate. All of which would be lost with Rep. Simpson’s new bill, SNRA+.
SNRA+ also fails to recognize recent community collaboration, including extensive meetings and discussions between the Idaho Conservation League, The Wilderness Society and the mountain biking community (among many others). This two-year effort resulted in a landmark MOU that garnered national attention. Together, we agreed to advocate for a designation that will achieve conservation objectives, while also preserving important recreational opportunities, including mountain biking on Castle Divide and Ants Basin.
Admittedly, the MOU cannot guarantee the final outcome; it does however, provide us an opportunity to engage in the process proactively and as a result we have established support for our interest from the conservation community spearheading the effort. Once a national monument is declared through an executive order proclamation, we go through a local public process to create a management plan.
Due to the local public process inherent in a national monument designation, this is the best option for flexible management that reflects local interests. However some, including Idaho’s Congressional delegation, disapprove of President Obama using executive order. (He has used it less than any of the past 10 presidents.) In fact, Senator Crapo recently introduced legislation that would restrict the President’s use of executive order to declare a national monument.
So while the plot thickens into a larger partisan debate, most of us locally simply want BWC to stay pretty much just the way they are today: a pristine ecosystem with excellent recreational opportunities.
Leaving BWC as is isn’t a terrible option, but sometimes, in order for things to stay just the way they are, we need to be proactive and preserve what we have and appreciate before it is lost. Furthermore, enough attention has been focused on BWC for long enough that there is a decent chance that a designation will be made. We want to make sure the designation preserves and protects what we love about the BWC; right now a Boulder White Clouds National Monument is the best option.
Simpson is requesting feedback right now on his plan: simpson.SNRA@mail.house.gov
Do you want to see mountain biking in the Boulders and the White Clouds preserved? Let him know. Send a letter to the paper. Ask questions. Get involved. This is our backyard and it matters. After all, this is how democracy works.