Taking on the most vocal critics of his Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill, Rep. Mike Simpson downplayed the effect of his bill on off-road recreation.
In a guest opinion sent to Idaho newspapers today, Simpson said the bill limits its 332,775 acres of wilderness to areas "that have the least impact on motorized and other existing uses."
Wrote Simpson: "Stakeholders, including ranchers, local officials, conservation groups, and recreationists, have found a compromise that protects this area without significantly reducing access for motorized users, giving them certainty into the future."
The Boulder-White Clouds bill, now in the Senate, would free up 130,453 acres of "wilderness study areas" for multiple use.
The Idaho Recreation Council, an off-road group, has led opposition to the bill. Gov. Butch Otter and Sen. Jim Risch oppose Simpson's bill, while Sen. Mike Crapo and Rep. Walt Minnick support it.
Here's the full Simpson guest opinion:
One of the most contentious issues in the wilderness debate is access. As I have worked with Idaho stakeholders to address serious land management conflicts that exist in the Boulder-White Clouds area of central Idaho, I have heard from a number of Idahoans who are concerned about losing existing access to motorized trails and recreation opportunities. The truth is that CIEDRA seeks to address a number of threats currently facing recreationists in central Idaho, ensuring that they continue to have access to this beautiful area.
Right now most of this area is being managed by the federal government as though it is wilderness. If we do nothing, the federal government could at any time increase restrictions through management plans, court decisions, or presidential monument designations.
First and foremost, it’s important to know that CIEDRA has no impact on roads that are currently open to cars, trucks, or other recreational vehicles. You will still be able to drive to your favorite spot in central Idaho.
If you like to snowmobile or ride OHVs in this area, CIEDRA strikes an important balance to preserve your access. Stakeholders, including ranchers, local officials, conservation groups, and recreationists, have found a compromise that protects this area without significantly reducing access for motorized users, giving them certainty into the future. Under this compromise, CIEDRA limits wilderness designation to areas that have the least impact on motorized and other existing uses and maintains existing snowmobile access in high elevations by adjusting wilderness boundaries so that they do not impact popular snowmobiling areas.
CIEDRA also releases wilderness study areas where motorized use is currently limited, giving recreationists more access to these areas than they have today. In drafting the bill, I intentionally excluded the Frog Lake Loop from wilderness so that it will remain open under its current use for motorized and mechanized travel.
Finally, of the two existing motorized corridors, CIEDRA closes the Grand Prize trail while ensuring that the Germania corridor must remain open in the future. This is the compromise reached by conservation groups and recreationists, to which I have remained committed throughout this process.
If you are interesting in learning more about CIEDRA or viewing maps of the areas impacted by the bill, please visit my website at www.simpson.house.gov/ciedra.