The Ketchum City Council voted 3-0 on Monday to approve a resolution in support of the designation of the Boulder‐White Cloud Mountains as a national monument.
Councilwoman Anne Corrock abstained from the vote, declaring that she needed “more time to digest and get more educated” on the issue.
Current plans for a national monument north of Ketchum call for placing 592,000 acres of federal land in Blaine and Custer counties under special status.
The council’s decision followed swiftly on the heels of President Barack Obama’s declaration on Monday that approximately 500,000 acres in New Mexico—the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area—be assigned federal national monument status.
Obama has received criticism from New Mexico ranchers and local law enforcement. The Washington Post called the designation a “Bundy-like showdown,” referring to a tense standoff in Nevada over use of federal lands. Opposition for the Boulder-White Clouds designation comes largely from residents of Custer County. The Custer County Commission has come out publicly against the plan. Some opponents maintain that the three land management agencies that currently oversee the area—the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area—are doing nothing wrong.
On Monday, however, Idaho Conservation League representative Dani Mazzotta disagreed with the assertion that the area does not need further protection.
“The SNRA has done amazing things but it is not an end-all for the Boulder-White Clouds,” she said Monday.
She expressed concern that the area was still sensitive to mining claims.
“There is still a mining threat to acreage outside the SNRA,” she said.
Also, the area may be subject to future “oil and geothermal entry,” she said.
Public support for the resolution in Blaine County is robust. Numerous Ketchum residents showed up to Monday night’s meeting to express their approval of the designation.
Elaine French, chairman of the board of ICL, noted that she had nothing to gain economically from the designation, but that it would protect the area, not only from mining claims, but from motorized use, which “is increasing every year and decreasing pristine landscape.”
Wood River Valley resident Claire Casey stated in support of the resolution that “there needs to be one management plan for the entire area.” She said that seven generations from now, all discussion of the designation “will be forgotten.”
Ketchum opposition focused on concerns about the national monument’s boundary encroachment on residential areas, and the lack of a detailed management plan. Others claimed that Ketchum supports the resolution for its economic opportunities.
Ketchum resident Bruce Smith said: “People who are in favor stand to make economic gain, to sell more backpacks or something.”
He also articulated his dissatisfaction with the lack of an overall management plan, which would outline motorized, bike, horse and foot-traffic trail-use.
Mazzotta said there is never a management plan in place until after an area is declared a national monument. She said that existing boundaries “follow the recommended national forest boundaries [in the western regions].” She further claimed that the proposed boundary in the eastern region “follows the watershed boundary.”
Finally, the City Council agreed that language that furthered local economic gain from the designation should be removed from the resolution.
“We need to take out the benefits to the local economy,” said Council President Mike David. “It’s not what this is about.”
Ketchum Mayor Nina Jonas said: “The reason we are doing this is because our representatives in Washington are doing nothing about wilderness protection.”
Expressing concern over the degradation of the area, Jonas said she considered Ketchum’s support of the resolution, “an opportunity.”