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Landmark Boulder-White Clouds Bill Passes U.S. House


  • Ed Cannady
Idaho's congressmen have been introducing bills to the U.S. Congress for the past ten years, trying to garner Wilderness protection for the Boulder-White Clouds. Time and time again, the bills have failed, but on Monday afternoon at 1:09 p.m. Mountain Time, the mountain ranges of Central Idaho came a little closer to permanent protection.

The U.S. House passed a bill, by voice vote, House Resolution 1138, designed to protect 275,000 acres of Boulder-White Clouds, according to The Wilderness Society. The bill was introduced by Rep. Mike Simpson earlier this year. The measure now heads for a crucial vote in the U.S. Senate. 

A subcommittee of the U.S. Senate heard arguments for a separate wilderness bill back on May 21 after it was introduced by U.S. Senator Jim Risch. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining listened to testimony on a bill identical to the one which passed in the House today. Idaho Conservation League executive director Rick Johnson made the trek to Washington D.C. to add his testimony to the hearing.

"We would like to see the protection bigger, but we're comfortable with this bill," Johnson told Boise Weekly before he left for the hearing in May. His organization has been pushing hard for a National Monument designation, which would protect almost 600,000 acres of the Boulder-White Clouds.

Simpson's bill would designate specified parcels of federal land - approximately 67,998 acres - in central Idaho as wilderness areas and as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System. None of the title affects the jurisdiction of the State of Idaho with respect to the management of fish and wildlife on public land, including the regulation of hunting, fishing and trapping within the wilderness areas. It also does not diminish any treaty rights of any Native American tribe. The agreement also includes special use permits to Blaine and Custer counties and the cities of Challis, Clayton and Stanley for certain properties on the land.

Simpson's revised bill looks to establish three separate Wilderness areas in the Sawtooth and Challis national forests: the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness (67,998 acres), the White Clouds Wilderness (90,769 acres) and the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness (116,898 acres).

Based on information provided by the affected agencies and assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that implementing the bill would cost less than $500,000 over the 2016-2020 period.