By WENDY JAQUET
Count me among the growing number of Idahoans who agree with former Gov. Cecil Andrus that protecting our beloved Boulder-White Clouds can no longer wait for this polarized Congress to get its act together and that we should look for another way.
However, as a former legislator, I feel strongly that communities can and must have a voice and a role in that decision. That’s why I am pleased to see the ongoing public discussion taking place around the state about the best way to manage these public lands. Public participation is what makes a democracy work.
Certainly no one is going to agree on every single detail of any proposal, but the airing of preferences and concerns helps ensure that people with a stake in the outcome have the opportunity to be heard. Many of us would have preferred to see this beautiful area safeguarded through the legislation that Rep. Mike Simpson has worked so hard for over the last decade. But when two-thirds of Americans believe this is the worst Congress of their lifetime, one on track to be the least productive in four decades, it’s time for another avenue.
While some have questioned the inclusion of a portion of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in the national monument, the fact is that safeguarding the White-Clouds is unfinished business, and efforts over the past 40 years have demonstrated a consistent desire to highlight the importance of this spectacular place. The White-Clouds are a critical piece of the whole. A unified plan that protects our clean drinking water, important alpine areas, and wildlife habitat—rather than leaving it a piecemeal of different management plans—is just good sense.
A Boulder-White Clouds National Monument will
be good for Idaho. The time has come.
So I commend the members of the Blaine County Commission, which just voted unanimously to support a national monument for the Boulder-White Clouds. The vote came after much discussion and public input, and it’s clear that the Blaine commissioners want to get things right in terms of balancing uses.
Monument designation will not only preserve the area as it is, but would likely boost the local economy by supporting new jobs and increasing visitor spending, according to a recent study by the Idaho Outdoor Business Council. A Boulder-White Cloud monument could also attract new businesses and residents to the area, also helping our bottom line.
It’s no surprise that a broad and diverse coalition, including community leaders, business owners, sportsmen, conservation groups, outfitters and recreation groups have joined the push for a monument here. Without protection, there is no guarantee that this treasure will stay as it is.
The Boulder-White Clouds are so much a part of what makes central Idaho the amazing place it is. People— my family included—are drawn here for the stunning landscape, the variety of outdoor activities, and the quality of life. I’ve lived here nearly 40 years, and I still remember the very first time we took our young boys out to experience the wild land we discovered practically outside our back door. As we hiked up Fourth of July Creek Trail to Washington and Born lakes, the only other person we crossed paths with was a sheep herder. As I looked down on the Borns, I thought about the early pioneers and wondered what it was like for them to experience such quiet beauty.
I wouldn’t trade this for the world, and that is why I feel so strongly that Idahoans must not lose this opportunity to finally safeguard this area for those who will camp, hunt, fish and climb here after us. A Boulder-White Clouds National Monument will be good for Idaho. The time has come.
Wendy Jaquet, of Ketchum, is a former Idaho state representative.