Letters From the West

Motorized recreation folks in talks with preservationists

Idaho's White Cloud Mountains are among the state's most beloved areas and are under consideration as a national monument.

Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains are among the state’s most beloved areas and are under consideration as a national monument.

I have had a few people comment that my story about the pact between the Idaho Conservation League, The Wilderness Society and mountain bikers ignores the issue of motorized recreation.

The story does but I’m not.

I called Sandra Mitchell, executive director of the Idaho Recreation Council and the Idaho Snowmobile Association, who represents them. She told me Wednesday her groups are in talks with the ICL about the monument.

Mitchell doesn’t see the need for any changes, but she knows the political reality: Whatever is chosen needs only President Obama’s signature to become law under the 1906 Antiquities Act.

She accepts the assertion of ICL Executive Director Rick Johnson that he wants to come up with a proposal that makes Idahoans proud.

“We are not going to roll people,” Johnson told his members in May of 2013. “We don’t have that power. Reaching too far and failing is not something to be proud of.”

The political reality is that motorcyclists and snowmobilers are using the area now. Just like mountain bikers and the preservationists both compromised, any deal that might come between motorized recreationists and preservationists will require compromises.

Many of the preservationists’ constituency don’t like them giving up Ants Basin and Castle Divide to mountain bike use. Many of Mitchell’s constituency won’t like giving up any open trails, let alone support any national monument.

But I doubt a lot of them voted for President Obama. I’m guessing they were pretty divided about Republican Rep. Mike Simpson, who has championed wilderness in the Boulder-White Clouds for nearly 15 years.

His bill, which preservationists say they are patterning their monument proposal on, left the main motorized corridors in place.

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