Letters From the West

Mountain bikers join call for Boulder-White Clouds national monument

A trail leads out of Little Casino Campground into the White Cloud Mountains, which gives you access to the backcountry from the comfort of base camp. (Idaho Statesman file photo by Pete Zimowsky)

A trail leads out of Little Casino Campground into the White Cloud Mountains, which gives you access to the backcountry from the comfort of base camp. (Idaho Statesman file photo by Pete Zimowsky)

The Wood River Bike Coalition has joined the list of groups that supports national monument designation for the Boulder-White Clouds.

The group is a chapter of the International Biking Association and while new, has gain respect for its organizing skills in a area where mountain biking I a key part of the tourism and quality of life scene. Mountain bikers and wilderness advocates have clashed in the past since bikes are not allowed in wilderness protected under the 1964 Wilderness Act.

When Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson wrote his Central Idaho Economic Development Act he sought to satisfy mountain bikers by keeping most of their favorite trails open. But at least a few were disappointed when his White Clouds wilderness proposal did not allow them to continue riding into Born Lake, one of the areas in the heart of the wilderness, take their bikes apart and carry them over the divide into the Big Boulders Lakes, an ungodly steep climb.

Last week the coalition met with representatives of the Wilderness Society and the Idaho Conservation League. Britt Stevenson, executive director of the biking coalition said after the meeting there was a lot of potential for bridge-building between recreation and conservation interests.

“I think a national monument could protect the area and protect the historic low impact recreation opportunities,” Stevenson said. “At this point I hope we can continue working collaboratively with the conservation organizations so we can come up with something.”

A president establishes a national monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906 and doesn’t need Congressional approval.  Rep. Mike Simpson has been working for more than a decade on a getting a bill to protect the area without success.

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