Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson is not a supporter of the Antiquities Act of 1906 that gives the President power to set aside public lands as national monuments.
He opposed President Clinton’s expansion of the Crater of the Moon National Monument in 2000 but turned around and sponsored legislation that turned the added lands into the Craters of the Moon National Preserve, so hunting would be allowed. But he has not joined Rep. Raul Labrador in sponsoring a bill that would amend the existing Antiquities Act to exclude Idaho from additional national monuments.
When Virginia Foxx, a Republican from Virginia, added an amendment to the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 in April that would require state legislatures and governors to sign off on any national monument designation Simpson voted against it. He did vote for the final bill that got bipartisan support.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings of Washington and National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican, who are strong supporters on limits to the Antiquities Act cornered Simpson and asked him what's up.
“I might have to ask the President to designate the Boulder-White Clouds because I can’t get a hearing in your committees,” Simpson told the Idaho Conservation League’s Wild Idaho audience at Redfish Lake Lodge in Stanley Sunday of his reply.
When he said it his press secretary Nikki Watts winced. He smiled.
Former Interior Secretary and Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus called on the conservationists Saturday to flood the White House with letters supporting a national monument designation of the 500,000-acre Boulder-White Clouds, which is the largest roadless area left in the national forest system, outside of Alaska. Andrus won his first election for governor in 1970 campaigning to stop a mine at Castle Peak in the White Clouds.
“We’ve worked on this for 40 years,” Andrus said. “The time has come and the time is now.”
Simpson said Bishop asked why he couldn’t release some of the roadless area to multiple use management as a as a part of his Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act. “I told him I release 132,000 acres,” Simpson said.
He had told Bishop that many time before, Simpson said. But Bishop apparently wasn’t listening.
Simpson said he has many alternatives to the Antiquities Act to pass the bill he has worked on for more than a decade. He is confident it can be added to a future lands bill or an Appropriations bill.
“Obviously the Antiquities Act can work but I’d rather have wilderness,” Simpson said. “I can’t tell you I’d favor using the Antiquities Act.”
Andrus has none of those qualms. President Jimmy Carter got the Alaska Land Act passed in 1980 after he had first designated millions of acres of Alaska a national monument upon Andrus’ recommendation. Andrus thinks President Obama could do the same thing in Idaho.
Politically, the designation would bring strong applause from the environmental community and might help him in states like Colorado and even Nevada.
“The President has nothing to lose from this,” Andrus said.