Letters From the West

Blaine and Custer County join together to host monumental meetings

Castle Peak in the White Cloud Mountains (Courtesy the Idaho Conservation League)

Castle Peak in the White Cloud Mountains (Courtesy the Idaho Conservation League)

Two county commissions with very different views about a Boulder-White Clouds national monument will meet jointly so they can hear what the other’s constituents think.

Blaine County, which supports a national monument and Custer County, which opposes it will each have meetings in May to allow residents to tells them the risk, the benefits the impacts and issues raised if a national monument is created. The first meeting is scheduled at Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge in Sun Valley May 7. The second is at the Community Center in Challis May 29.

The Wilderness Society and the Idaho Conservation League have held a series of their own meetings in Stanley, Mackay, Challis and Hailey anf have changed the boundaries of their proposal. The new proposal removed private land along the Salmon River and added lands in the Malm Gulch area near Challis, which contains an ancient forest of petrified sequoia trees created by a volcanic eruption 50 million years ago.

Overall, the proposal the groups supporting a national monument includes 591, 905 acres. President Barack Obama can designate a national monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906 by signing a proclamation.

Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen sought the meetings with his counterparts in Custer County after taking his commission’s resolution in favor of the monument to Obama administration officials in Washington. Custer County Commission Chairman Wayne Butts agreed that both counties will benefit by hearing people in the very different areas.

“We want to hear their ideas,” he said.

Blaine County’s diverse economy includes a thriving tourism business with hotels, condos, second homes, shops and an airport with commercial service, which would all benefit from a monument. Custer County, which depends on ranching, mining and far less tourism, has far less of the infrastructure to benefit from a monument.

“I hope we hear the true, honest pros and cons,” Butts said.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West