STANLEY, ID—After direct engagement in the discussion regarding the proposal to create a National Monument in Central Idaho for over a year, the Sawtooth Society has concluded it must oppose any overlap of a National Monument on the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.  At the same time, the Society reiterated it has been a long-time supporter, and continues to support, Wilderness designation for the Boulder-White Cloud peaks in the eastern part of Central Idaho’s Sawtooth National Recreation Area (NRA) as outlined in the pending Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act [CIEDRA].

“The Act creating the Sawtooth NRA was unanimously endorsed by the Idaho Congressional delegation, had broad support in Congress and across Idaho, and it has protected the Sawtooth NRA for well over 40 years,” said Sawtooth Society President Paul Hill. “We urge a similar patient approach in the present case.”

Hill noted that while the CIEDRA legislation has been pending for a number of years, it took several decades to ultimately develop and enact the legislation that created and permanently protected the Sawtooth NRA.

“We don’t believe this is the time to abandon efforts to enact the CIEDRA legislation, which would provide predictable and truly effective additional protection for the Boulder-White Clouds,” Hill said. “It’s simply unwise to trade this time-tested approach for an unpredictable bureaucratic process with an unknown outcome, such as a Presidential Proclamation of a National Monument—a process that would not add any meaningful new protection as compared to the protection and processes already in place within the Sawtooth NRA. Moreover, creation of a National Monument would inevitably generate a host of new problems that enactment of Wilderness legislation would avoid.”

Consistent with these views, the Sawtooth Society’s position statement on the proposed National Monument for the Boulder-White Clouds opposes the proposed overlap on the existing Sawtooth NRA because of the harm it would do and the lack of benefit it would provide.

“We just cannot see any real benefits it would yield, or any issues it would address that cannot be better addressed through modifying existing management and travel plans for the area,” Hill said. “In addition to working for Congressional Wilderness designation, the Society stands ready to collaboratively pursue any changes needed in existing plans to address any problems or threats in the Boulder-White Clouds, now or in the future.”

Hill added the Society certainly supports more robust funding and enforcement for the entire Sawtooth NRA.  For years it has been a strong advocate for such funding and will continue to actively pursue it.

“The proposed 280,000-acre overlap on the already protected Sawtooth NRA would require creation of a new multi-agency management plan using a complicated, multi-year planning process with an unknown outcome,” said Sawtooth Society Executive Director Gary O’Malley. “For at least several years, it would divert vital Forest Service resources from National Recreation Area management, delay critical National Recreation Area decisions while awaiting a final plan, strain limited resources in the Boulder-White Clouds, divert scarce resources from important neighboring areas and likely generate confusion, conflict and lawsuits. What real purpose would that serve?  The Society sees no additional benefit.  For example, new mining claims are already prohibited in the NRA and the relatively few remaining claims are restricted to the full extent law allows.  A National Monument declaration would not change the status-quo.”

In addition, the proposed National Monument would divide management of three major river fisheries, including the Upper Salmon, Big Lost and Big Wood Rivers, into separate regimes for portions within and without the proposed National Monument.  Were a National Monument proclaimed, recreational traffic would likely increase on the already strained Boulder-White Clouds infrastructure and emergency services and on a very fragile environment.

“Yet, a National Monument proclamation would fail to make any provision for additional funding to address these challenges,” O’Malley said.

Hill also noted that because the Society’s mission focuses exclusively on the Sawtooth NRA, the Society does not oppose a National Monument in Central Idaho outside the Sawtooth NRA, though neither are they supporting it.

“The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is a major success story with a proven history of sound management,” O’Malley said. “This tremendous legacy should not be compromised or undermined by a complicated and untested management plan that will emerge only years after monument designation occurs.  Since the Sawtooth NRA portion of the proposal is already permanently protected, we can see no advantage, only downside.”

The Sawtooth Society, formed in 1997, is dedicated exclusively to preserving, protecting and enhancing the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.  The Sawtooth Society has helped preserve open spaces, funded over 160 recreational-related projects throughout the Sawtooth NRA and sponsored many dozens of volunteer projects.

For additional information about the organization, visit the Sawtooth Society at www.sawtoothsociety.org or email gary@sawtoothsociety.org.