U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson made a bold prediction at the Idaho Conservation League's Wild Idaho conference last weekend. By the next time the annual conference rolls around, he prophesied, the divisive Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act will be a reality.
CIEDRA proposes designating 300,000 acres in the Boulder and White Cloud Roadless area in Central Idaho as wilderness--with a catch. Some of the wilderness would still be made accessible to motorized vehicle use, and approximately 3,500 acres of other public land would be handed over to Custer County and cities like Stanley and for potential development. While Simpson has support in the bill from the ICL and The Wilderness Society, the bill's numerous opponents say that the reward isn't worth the compromise. Lynne Stone with the Ketchum-based Boulder-White Clouds council admitted she was initially of this mindset, but had "come out of the closet" and begun openly supporting it last October.
"We didn't give up. We didn't take our toys and go home like some people did [or] start throwing grenades at this process," she said.
Simpson said that within the first couple of weeks of June, he planned to get the bill through a full-committee markup within the House. After that, he said, "if we get it on the agenda, we'll get it passed." He admitted that getting the bill through the U.S. Senate would be a greater challenge, but said he was "optimistic" about its chances.
"I've got very many vices and very few virtues, and maybe the one that is the best of my virtues is that when I say I'm going to do something, I will do it or die trying. And we will get this bill done."