Representative Mike Simpson is reintroducing his Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act and Senator Mike Crapo his Owyhee Canyonlands bill.
Both measures failed in the last Congress, although Simpson’s CIEDRA came close to being sent to Bush’s desk.
Here is the story in today’s Idaho Statesman.“Simpson, Crapo again push their wilderness bills. Lawmakers say getting legislation for Owyhees, Boulder-White Clouds passed will take a lot of work.” By Keith Ridler. The Associated Press
Both bills have stirred up a lot of contention amongst conservation groups, with some favoring and some opposing these “wilderness bills.” Many folks believe that both bills will have to become greener to clear the new Democratic congress. Some conservation groups, not to mention the many anti-conservation interests, will continue to oppose them no matter what.
I have a proposal as to how to think about these bills which might be useful for all sides of the issue.
While these two bills are often called “wilderness bills,” both measures contain many side payments to non-wilderness and anti-wilderness interests in an effort to gain their support or at least reduce their opposition. In reality, these 2 bills are a list of changes to the public land laws, not wilderness bills. Designating some wilderness is just one item on the list. That one item attracts the attention of the media, many conservation groups, and die-hard anti-wilderness groups like the Blue Ribbon Coalition.
I think interest groups would do better to list each item in each bill and assign it a + or minus score. For example a conservation groups might figure “over 300,000 acres of designated wilderness, +10;” “the wilderness is split by two off-road vehicle corridors, -2;” “public land is given to Idaho counties for development, -3;” “there is a voluntary buyout of grazing leases, +5,” etc. Each group could come up with their own score. If it is positive, support it. The more positive it is, work harder. The same is true for the negative.
Given that Congress is now greener, conservation groups should insist on a higher net positive score than last year. The additional positive points do not have to be immediately on site. They could be somewhere else in Idaho. For example, last year one payoff to off road vehicle groups was creation of a public lands sacrifice area near Boise, many miles from the White Cloud and Boulder Mountains.
On way of increasing the net positive score on CIEDRA for me would be more grazing buyouts in the general vicinity. To me the biggest problem in the area is livestock grazing in country not really suited for it, or country where grazing detracts more from the area’s value, than it adds in the way of the meager economic activity it generates.
If groups dropped their ideology for or against wilderness and thought about these bills in the way I suggest, I think a resolution might be at hand. However, as long as the groups stand on abstract principles such as “wilderness, land of no use,” or “wilderness, it most not be compromised in any way,” or “there must be transfer of some public lands to private hands simply because Custer County is already 95% public land,” this issue will go on and on and never be resolved.