Letters From the West

Vilsack said he will work collaboratively on Boulder-White Clouds

Idaho's White Cloud Mountains

Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said the Obama administration will work collaboratively to evaluate the Boulder-White Clouds area as a possible national monument.

Vilsack compared the process to the one that was used for Chimney Rock National Monument, established in September of 2012 in Colorado. Both areas are managed by the U.S. Forest Service, which also manages six other national monuments.

Chimney Rock is an area where Pueblo people lived more than 1,000 years ago and it has 118 archeological sites on 4,726 acres. Local and national groups, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, had been pushing for its protection as a national monument for years.

Vilsack said he will work with Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, local supporters and others to determine whether the Boulder White Clouds, a more than 500,000-acre roadless area deserves monument status. Republican Rep. Mike Simpson has been working for more than a decade to get 332,000 acres of the mountain ranges protected as wilderness.

“It will be a collaborative effort,” Vilsack said.

Former Interior Secretary and Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus has urged the Obama Administration to use the powers of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to protect the area. National monument protection needs only the president’s signature while Congress must approve wilderness.

Former Interior Secretary and Gov. Dirk Kempthorne studied the area during his term but backed off because Simpson’s thought he would get it protected as wilderness in Congress.

Otter has been one of the opponents to wilderness protection of the area.

Kempthorne also had drafted a proclamation to protect the Island Park Caldera around Mesa Falls in eastern Idaho near Yellowstone. Local groups are also organizing to build support for its designation as a national monument.

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.

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