ICYMI: Blaine, Custer Counties Back Simpson’s Wilderness Bill

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April 20, 2015

BOISE (AP) | Commissioners in two central Idaho counties are backing a new wilderness plan put forward by Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho.

The Idaho Statesman reports that Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen and Custer County Commissioner Wayne Butts in an April 13 letter say they prefer Simpson’s wilderness plan to a national monument designation.

The new plan, called SNRA Plus, would protect 272,000 acres of wilderness, about 60,000 acres less than an earlier plan.

But the previous wilderness plan has failed in Congress for years. Some groups have asked President Barack Obama to use his executive power under the Antiquities Act to create a 592,000-acre national monument that includes the rugged Boulder and White Cloud mountains.

“Based on a broad range of public sentiment pro and con, we believe a legislative solution to conservation protection for the region is preferable to a Presidential national monument designation, for many reasons,” the commissioners wrote. “We think that is likely if SNRA Plus fails.”

Simpson has said he expects Obama to designate a national monument in the area if Congress can’t pass a wilderness bill.

The two central Idaho counties have disagreed in the past about federal protections in the area, with Blaine County favoring a national monument and Custer County opposing one.

In general, Blaine County, a tourist area containing the resort areas of Ketchum and Sun Valley, has been in favor of federal protections for the mountainous area.

But Custer County has been wary of federal protections that local residents have said could limit opportunities for mining and grazing.

“While Blaine County and Custer County are perceived not to agree on much, we recognize some common interests,” the commissioners wrote. “When we Commissioners can stand together or work together in the public interest, we should.”