By STEVE DEFFE
After watching Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, introduce and re-introduce his version of "wilderness" since 2000, I have to wonder just what it is he is trying to achieve. This week's most current version of the Central Idaho Economic and Redevelopment Act (CIEDRA) bill has again included more exceptions (tweaks) to try and get his co-sponsors to help him force a compromised-to-death, bad bill into the House for passing. We learn that Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, only co-sponsored the bill as a favor to Simpson. Sen. Risch and the other co-sponsors won't support the CIEDRA bill without more modifications (tweaks) to the language in the bill. They have stated it's not the same bill as it was in 2006, and it was faux wilderness then. Even Gov. Butch Otter says he won't support this bill as written.
Furthermore, Simpson claims that all users have been brought to the table to help draft this compromised bill. I know at least one major user group, the mountain bikers, have been thrown under the bus wheels when it comes to access. As a non-motorized use, they were forced together with the motorized group, I guess because they both have wheels. That's like saying because horses and people have feet, they should be in the same user group— everyone who uses trails knows each group has a different impact.
When asked why authors of CIEDRA can't make exceptions for bicycles, as a non-motorized use, we're told it would take an act of Congress to change the wording—isn't that the same "tweaking" that is going on now? The current proposal allows helicopter landings and flyovers to harass and murder our wolves, land airplanes on private and public airstrips and use dynamite to blow up log jams on rivers. How is that less impact than a bicycle?
For now, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is doing a fine job of managing this area. Traditional user access is preserved and we will have the ability to put in wheelchair-accessible trails without yet another change (tweak) in the wilderness wording. If you recall, it was only a few weeks ago that counties that contain federal land were patiently awaiting their PILT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) funds from the federal government. These funds were delayed this year.
Do you think in these hard economic times our country is facing, and everyone wanting taxes cut even further, that we will see more money coming the way of the counties affected by more locked-up federal land? Until a real wilderness bill can be backed and supported by our governor, representatives and the public, we shouldn't settle for just anything that has the name "wilderness" attached to it. CIEDRA is a poor choice and sets a bad precedent for future wilderness.
Please write the governor, or your congressmen, and let them know that we deserve better. Just say "no" to CIEDRA.
Steve Deffe lives in Ketchum.