CIEDRA Senate Hearing Statement

Statement of Representative Michael K. Simpson (ID-02)

S. 3294- The Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act

Before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests

June 16, 2010

Chairman Wyden and Ranking Member Barrasso, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the Boulder-White Clouds bill. 

I also want to thank Senator Risch, a member of your committee, for cosponsoring the bill along with our Senior Senator, Mike Crapo.  Senator Crapo has been a supporter of my efforts from day one and Senator Risch has shown strong support since his days as Idaho’s governor.  I appreciate them introducing the bill in the Senate and their hard work in bringing this bill forward.

Since my election to Congress, one of my priorities has been to resolve conflicts in central Idaho’s Boulder-White Cloud Mountains.  Mine is not the first attempt to solve management issues in this area.  Senator McClure and Governor Andrus worked together to try to find a wilderness compromise.  Representative Stallings and then Representative Crapo each made their own attempts at finding a solution.  Their efforts were thwarted by a political climate in which the parties involved had little desire for compromise.

Things are different today.  Lawsuits, national monument threats, ESA protections for fish and wildlife, as well as a myriad of other restrictions and conflicts, have forced all parties to reconsider the need for a compromise in the Boulder-White Clouds.  Today we have a rare opportunity to control our own destiny by crafting legislation that fits the needs of the people who live and recreate in central Idaho while creating substantive wilderness areas.

I have sought to be inclusive and recognize the needs of the surrounding communities, motorized users, the ranchers who live in the area, and those who recreate in the Boulder-White Clouds.  The old approach to wilderness of sacrificing the needs of individuals and specific user groups to the benefit of others will not work anymore.  I began this process with the assumption that those who are affected by wilderness creation must be a part of the solution. In short, the needs of the people who live and recreate in the area are as important as the lines drawn on a map. 

What this bill does:

  • It releases four wilderness study areas and USFS recommended wilderness in the SNRA totaling 130,453 acres back to general multiple use.  
  • It creates three new wilderness areas, the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness, the White Clouds Wilderness, the Jerry Peak Wilderness, totaling 332,775 acres. 
  • Grants have already been secured for Custer County and the surrounding Boulder-White Clouds communities for economic development, a community center, a county health clinic and EMT support, and improvements to Trail Creek Highway. 
  • Funding has already been secured for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area for trail maintenance and improvements, including maintenance and improvement of existing motorized trails and two existing trails to provide primitive wheelchair access, and for acquiring the land to build a mechanized bike/snowmobile access trail between Redfish Lake and Stanley. 
  • Through the bill, selected East Fork permitees may be eligible to voluntarily retire their grazing permits in exchange for compensation from private sources. 
  • It provides land conveyances in Custer and Blaine Counties for public purposes, including use for fire stations, school bus turnarounds, parks and campgrounds, a shooting range, a waste transfer site, and a water tower and water treatment facility.  
  • It keeps the Germania Creek Trail corridor open under its current use for single track, two-wheeled motorized and mechanized travel.  
  • It closes the Grand Prize trail corridor to motorized and mechanized travel. 
  • Frog Lake Loop is excluded from wilderness and will remain open under its current use for motorized and mechanized travel.  
  • Snowmobilers will maintain their access to their traditional high elevation snowmobile areas in the Fourth of July, Washington Basin, Champion Lakes and Warm Springs areas.  
  • It also creates a primitive, nonpaved, wheelchair-accessible trail into wilderness.

I would like to clear up some confusion about the impact of this bill on those who recreate in the area.  This bill does not close a single road to cars, campers, or trucks.  If you drive to your favorite camping or hunting spot today, you will be able to do so when this bill becomes law.

Also, I keep hearing that when the SNRA was created, it resulted from an “agreement” to keep the BWC’s open to multiple uses with no wilderness.

Section 5 of the Act states:

The Secretary shall, as soon as practicable after the enactment of this Act, review the undeveloped and unimproved portion or portions of the recreation area as to suitability or nonsuitability for preservation as a part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

It appears the drafters put off the wilderness question by including language instructing the Forest Service to create wilderness study areas within the SNRA.  This is why we have a substantial number of wilderness study areas today in the Boulder-White Clouds.  Our bill puts the SNRA wilderness question to bed.  It’s either made wilderness or released.

Additionally, in regards to the suggestions that Governor Otter has mentioned in his letter as we move forward:

  • The conveyances to the communities will take place immediately after the bill becomes law. 
  • We have been speaking with the Idaho Department of Lands to identify lands that work for the state in a possible exchange with the BLM.  Additionally, I would be happy to look at a purchase of these lands by the BLM. 
  • I support helicopter language for wildlife management in the Boulder-White Clouds, in particular wolf management. 
  • The water language currently in CIEDRA was negotiated with the State Attorney General’s office. 
  • Finally, I am always supportive of funds to eradicate and prevent weed infestations. 

The scope and breadth of the bill is one of its greatest detriments in that it provides its critics an opportunity to read, interpret, and disseminate their views in any manner they see fit.  When I spoke in 2006 before this committee, I said, “This is not a perfect bill; however, it’s the compromise that best balances the needs of the people who live near and use and enjoy the Boulder-White Clouds.”  I continue to stand by that statement today.

This is a complex issue—on the one hand, if any landscape ever deserved the designation of “wilderness,” it is this pristine area, and it should be preserved for future generations to enjoy.  On the other hand, unresolved disputes over land use have left many Idahoans who are dependent on the land for their livelihoods with few choices for the future.  Those issues should be addressed once and for all so that ranching families who have lived on the land for generations can be made whole.  The reality is that complex issues don’t always have simple solutions, and this is the case with CIEDRA.  It is a complicated, imperfect bill that forces each side to give a bit in order to find an answer.  But at the end of the day, Idahoans have decided that the status quo is no longer acceptable and have come together to craft this solution that addresses both the need to conserve this area and the need to protect the livelihoods of Idahoans who live and recreate there.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.