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Opinion Editorial – Protection of the Boulder White Clouds

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By Nels Mitchell

The Boulder White Clouds is one of the Idaho’s special places.  It deserves protection.  And, by all indications, that protection will come this year or next.

The question is whether it will result from Congressional action, or a presidential pronouncement.  Second District Representative Mike Simpson recently stated he will renew his effort to pass his Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA).  If I am elected to the U.S. Senate, that effort will have my strong support.

If Congress refuses to act, the President is likely to use his power under the National Antiquities Act and grant national monument status to the area.  From an Idaho perspective, Congressional action is by far the better course.  A bill written by Idaho residents, community leaders, business interests, and conservationists can best address the interests of the local stakeholders while providing wilderness protection.


In Sunday’s Idaho Statesman, Rep. Simpson said that Senators Crapo and Risch have a choice: “Do they want to do [CIEDRA], or do they want the Obama administration to do a national monument and blame the administration for it?”

Representative Simpson’s question is timely.  As almost everyone knows, Risch used his position as Idaho’s junior senator to kill Simpson’s efforts to protect the Boulder White Clouds.  In so doing, he broke a promise made when he ran for office in 2008 when he committed to supporting Simpson’s proposal.

Just two weeks ago, in our KTVB debate, Risch attempted to justify his broken promise by claiming that “liberals in Washington, D.C.” had changed Simpson’s bill and that the legislation he opposed was no longer “Mike’s bill.”  Of course, Risch has never publicly identified the “liberals” or stated with specificity the changes he found unacceptable. And there is a reason for that.  He isn’t telling the truth.

Speaking at the Frank Church Institute Conference on Wilderness, Congressman Simpson was asked if Senator Risch’s claim was true, if liberals had, in fact, substantially changed his legislation.  Congressman Simpson responded that Risch’s claim was not true.  He said, “I don’t know where that’s coming from.”  He added that no changes were made to his legislation that were not approved by Idaho stakeholders.

So we see that Risch promised one thing and did another.  When called out on his broken promise, Risch resorted to falsely blaming unnamed liberals, offering no details, and refusing to work toward a constructive solution.  During his six years in Washington, Risch has earned a reputation as one of the least effective senators.  It’s easy to see why.

Protecting Idaho’s special places should not be a partisan issue.  It is an Idaho issue best solved by Idahoans — from both parties.  The monument route would likely turn the process over to federal bureaucracies, and there would be no assurance that local stakeholders would have their interests protected.  It is time that Idaho’s Congressional delegation unite in this important effort and ensure the passage of legislation supported by Idahoans.

When I am elected to the U.S. Senate, I look forward to working with Idaho’s Second District Congressman — whether Mike Simpson or Richard Stallings — to successfully enact a sound legislative proposal to protect the Boulder White Clouds.  Senator Risch didn’t keep his promise.  I will.



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