Last week I represented the Wood River Bike Coalition in D.C. on a trip coordinated by Outdoor Alliance. Outdoor Alliance protects and promotes human powered outdoor recreation experience by uniting the voices of thousands of paddlers, mountain bikers, climbers and skiers to conserve America’s public lands. True to form, we had an awesome collection of outdoor recreation enthusiasts and public lands advocates from Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.
The future management of our backyard mountain ranges, the Boulders and White Clouds, was the focus of my meetings with Rep. Simpson, Rep. Labrador, Sen. Risch, and Sen. Crapo. I also met with staff of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, USFS, and Department of Interior. I have been to D.C. to discuss BWC on several occasions, but I have never been received with such eagerness to discuss BWC as I did on this trip; Boulder-White Clouds is more than just on the radar in D.C.
In 2015, Rep. Simpson is planning to revive his Wilderness bill, CIEDRA—a bill that he has been pushing in Congress for over a decade. Meanwhile, the support for a national monument has broaden to include a wide spectrum of conservation and recreation interests, numerous local businesses and communities, and has a petition of nearly 13,000 supporters.
The Bike Coalition supports a national monument designation because it can protect the ecological value of the area while also preserving mountain biking access and other forms of recreation. CIEDRA, as drafted, would limit the region to predominantly primitive recreational use only, like the neighboring Sawtooth Wilderness. A national monument seems like the clear choice for our local community as there is a local public process inherent in the designation in which we determine what is permissible and how it is managed in the future.
A lot is going on in D.C., yet very little is happening. The chance of CIEDRA making it through Congress, particularly in its current form, seems slim. Our Congressmen and Senators all commented that it is not an ideal bill and that they all value recreation, access, and local interest. CIEDRA does not capture these values, and though a national monument can, the delegation is not supportive of President Obama using executive order to declare a national monument.
Ultimately, what most folks want is for the Boulder-White Clouds to stay the way they are—a pristine, beautiful place for animals and humans to experience wild country. And sometimes, in order to keep things the way they are, we actually need to do something—take action in order to preserve what we have and what we love. Idaho’s congressional delegation, the executive branch, and a great deal of locals agree on that, but sometimes the political twists and side-stories contort our collective objective.
It is our hope that the Boulder-White Clouds will remain largely how they exist today for future generations to enjoy and appreciate. We believe that a national monument is the best way to achieve this; it is the right tool to incorporate local interests, such as conservation and recreation.