Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Some outfitters view wilderness as a mixed blessing

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By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

Written on August 6, 2003

Mike Scott and Louise Stark have led horse pack and hunting trips in Idaho's White Cloud Mountains for 17 years. As owners of Challis-based White Cloud Outfitters, they said they see potential designation of a wilderness area in the White Cloud and Boulder ranges from multiple perspectives.

"It will bring more people. I think that's kind of a given," said Stark. "But then I have to look at the type of experience (we) offer right now, and our clients don't want to see people when they're up there.

"You put that W on these places, and people just come. They will come. So I am wondering if the agencies are prepared to manage the people that come."

In addition to an increase in forest visitors, Stark said wilderness designation would probably be accompanied by increased scrutiny from public lands managers, "possibly to the extreme."

"Really, we don't have any problems with the way things are right now," she said. "The language in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area laws is pretty restrictive. It's worked, to a great deal, to this point in time. If we just enforced what's already on the books, we'd be close to being there."

Sawtooth Valley-based outfitter Tom Proctor owns Pioneer Mountain Outfitters with his wife, Debbie. They've been leading horse pack and hunting trips in the White Clouds for 18 years.

Proctor agreed that a wilderness designation would probably attract more visitors to the region. However, he still views wilderness in the area as a mixed blessing.

"On one hand, when they set this up in '72, they established the wilderness in the Sawtooths, and the White Clouds were left for multiple use. You have to understand that I don't like mountain bikes and motorcycles, but they have to have a place to go.

"If you go wilderness, you're looking at eliminating a lot of (those uses), and it probably would be better for me."

Like Stark, Proctor said current regulations would probably be satisfactory if they were enforced more vigorously.

Unlike his Custer County counterparts, Blaine County outfitter Jim Super said wilderness designation in the Boulder-White Clouds is "long overdue."

But Super, who owns Super Outfitter Adventures of Sun Valley and offers day-use hunting trips in the Boulder Mountains, also said more people would trigger a balancing act between the benefits of increased business and his clients' expectations.

"When I take someone out on a trail ride, there's an expectation that there will be nobody else on that trail," he said. "If you have too much use, you lose that look and feel."

The bottom line, said Stark, is that predictions are difficult.

"I can not tell you if it would enhance our experience or not," she said. "I kind of wonder."




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