Wilderness proposal passes committee

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jul 24, 2006
by WLJ
The U.S. House Resources Committee last week approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-ID, which will create 492 square miles of federal land in central Idaho as protected wilderness while conveying other public land to the state and local governments.

Lloyd Knight, executive vice president of the Idaho Cattle Association, said the group is still opposed to the legislation.

“We are concerned about the addition of more wilderness in the state. We are also opposed to the fact that some of the language that would have provided compensation for ranchers who lost grazing land has been taken out of the bill,” Knight said. “We are still committed to working with Representative Simpson on the bill though.”

The Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA) designates three new federally protected wilderness areas in the rugged mountain peaks of the Sawtooth and Challis National Forests—the Ernest Hemingway-Boulder Wilderness, the White Clouds Wilderness and the Jerry Peak Wilderness. The CIEDRA bill will also add 600 acres protected from development to the existing Sawtooth National Recreation Area.
In return, local governments in Stanley, Clayton, Mackay, Challis, Custer and Blaine counties will get almost 4,000 acres of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property to sell, manage or develop into affordable housing or public facilities. Another 960-acre parcel of BLM land near Boise would be given to the state for a new off-road vehicle state park.

As a concession, the Department of Interior will be required to release from study 130,000 acres of public land which had been earmarked as potential wilderness, allowing federal land managers to issue permits for grazing, mining, logging or other commercial uses.

Although Democrats on the House Resources Committee had voiced concern over the Idaho bill during a hearing in October 2005, the measure was approved on an unanimous voice vote last Wednesday.
The measure now will be scheduled for a final vote on the House floor and then must make it through the U.S. Senate before the end of the year when this session of Congress concludes.

“I’m pretty confident it will pass the floor of the House,” Simpson said. “After that, it depends on how quickly the Senate moves it.”

The latest version of Simpson’s wilderness bill added 11,000 more acres to the proposed wilderness areas than previous versions, for a total of 315,215 acres. It also dropped an earlier provision that would have compensated ranchers financially in return for surrendering their grazing rights within the proposed wilderness areas. — John Robinson,
WLJ Editor