Tuesday, April 16, 2013

New life for Idaho treasures as national monuments?

In the waning days of the Bush administration, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne prepared draft proclamations for President George W. Bush to issue the declaration for two of Idaho's most scenic areas. He saw his monument study as a natural step in his conservation legacy. As Boise's mayor, Kempthorne helped protect Hull's Gulch. As Idaho governor, he began the state's roadless national forest review and sought to expand state parks. Interior documents obtained by the Idaho Statesman show that Kempthorne pushed Mesa Falls protection into December 2008 before deciding that he didn't have the time to build local support. Kempthorne eventually backed off recommending the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains in Central Idaho and the caldera plateau around Mesa Falls as national monuments. Fast-forward to 2013. In March, President Barack Obama designated five national monuments using the powers of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which gives the president the ability to create monuments with the stroke of a pen. His action gave conservation groups hope that his administration will reconsider the areas Kempthorne recommended to Bush. Kempthorne told the Statesman last week that back in 2008, he didn't want to recommend the Boulder-White Clouds and the Owyhee Canyonlands unless sponsors of separate bills to protect the areas - Rep. Mike Simpson and Sen. Mike Crapo, respectively - approved. Crapo and Simpson both told Kempthorne that they were confident they could get their bills through Congress, so they said no to monuments. But only Crapo got his bill passed, designating 512,000 acres of wilderness and 315 miles of wild and scenic rivers. Simpson's bill stalled in Congress...more

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