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Posts tagged as “wilderness”

First take/motorized

I wouldn't have thought the groups of people seeking to run motorized vehicles - snowmobiles, ATVs and so on - in the backcountry would be quite so large, but maybe it is.

They were among the last holdouts and critics in opposition to the recent designation of the central Idaho wilderness area earlier this year. Now they are filing a lawsuit against the in-progress Kootenai National Forest plan in Montana (the forest is adjacent to northern Idaho) which would designate about 115,000 acres as wilderness.

Wilderness areas generally ban motorized equipment of any sort (planes being a notable exception), and such recreational transports usually are banned from there. But accommodations have been made in some places, as the plaintiffs' attorney pointed out.

Most of the specific issues in the case concern whether all of the proposals in the plan properly went through the public hearing process, and whether for the proper periods of time. But the presence of motorized transport in wilderness areas is something likely to come back up, in various places. - rs

Alaska, Andrus and Carter


Former President Jimmy Carter, the best ex-president this country has ever had, is suffering from liver cancer and could be crossing the Jordan River soon. He is now 90 years old and just finished his 25th book. The Carter Center at Emory University in Atlanta has become a model for the good works a former president can do both in this country and around the world.

Without question the top achievement legislatively from the four years President Carter held the wheel was passage of the Alaskan lands legislation which overnight doubled the size of the National Park system and the Fish and Wildlife system of bird refuges. Almost 100 million acres, including entire ecosystems received protection.

I have a new book out, Eye on the Caribou, published by Ridenbaugh Press that tells the inside story of the critical role played by former four term Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus in securing the historic legislation while serving as President Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of the Interior.

I’ve long thought that Governor Andrus has never been given the full credit he deserved for the critical role he played in leading the way to passage of the greatest single piece of conservation legislation in American history, so I set out to make sure the history books properly reflect this excellent piece of his legacy.

This new book joins a well reviewed biography (Cecil Andrus: Idaho’s Greatest Governor) on the governor published in 2011, and a book of 13 essays (Medimont Reflections) in 2013 that covered other issues and political figures Governor Andrus and I worked on during my 40 years of public involvement.

Andrus has always been quick to say that “success has a thousand fathers and mothers” and has especially singled out the Alaska Coaliton and the critical role played by Chuck Clusen, Brock Evans and Doug Scott for their contribution to successful passage of the legislation.

Future historians will find some heretofore little known jewels of information in this latest book. For example, during the summer of 1978 when Andrus and President Carter spent four days fly fishing and floating the Middle Fork of Idaho’s Salmon River, they settled on the fall back strategy of President Carter using his authority under the Antiquities Act to make the largest national monuments in history. They guessed correctly this would bring the Alaska delegation back to the bargaining table to undue the more restrictive form of protection monument status requires.

Other examples of anecdotes in the book include a heretofore unreported 1979 secret meeting between Alaska Governor Jay Hammond and Secretary Andrus in which the two by themselves spent a day fishing at some of Hammond’s favorite fishing sites in and around Lake Clark and Lake Iliamna. The two would set aside their fishing rods from time to time, get out their maps and pretty much settled on the boundaries of the soon-to-be new additions to the Nationl Park Service and to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s system of bird refuges.

The book also details the massive cross-over vote in 1980 orchestrated by the late Senator Ted Stevens to defeat in the Democratic primary his senatorial colleague, Mike Gravel. Stevens held Gravel directly responsible for the circumstances leading to his wife Ann’s death in a plane crash on December 4th, 1978.

The book also details the adverse impact the legislation had for the owner of a properly proven up mining claim owned by a partnership that included a Spokane exploration geologist, Wallace McGregor.

Even universally acclaimed legislation can still have adverse impacts on some people, and while Mr. McGregor’s dispute with the Park Service over his inholding is complex the fact remains that 40 years have gone by without any compensation to them for a de facto taking.”

The book retails for $16.95 and is now available directly from the publisher,, or, or directly from the author, or at your nearby Hastings outlet in Idaho and at Aunties in Spokane, as well as The PaperHouse in St. Maries.

First take

Something seemed likely to happen this year on the Boulder-White Clouds area, because of the pressure on for a presidential declaration of a national monument in the area if no congressional action happened. And, though not much mentioned this week, that prospect seems to have lit a fire under certain people associated with (or in opposition to) the Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill long pushed by Representative Mike Simpson. That doesn't, of course, diminish the proper credit Simpson should get for the bill; it just helps explain why it slipped through the House and Senate this year when it failed in years previous, during times when it seemed to be forever stuck. Part of good legislating is persistence, and Simpson demonstrated that, keeping after the bill through good times and back, and skillfully striking when the opportunity arose. It was a demonstration of pure legislative skill and on a topic important to Idaho. A question: Has there been a congressional action specific to Idaho of greater significance since the designation of the River of No Return Wilderness (since renamed to include Frank Church) more than three decades ago? Passage of this bill may give Simpson the clear edge as the most consequential member of Congress for Idaho in the last generation. - rs (photo/"Alice Lake" by Fredlyfish4)"Alice Lake" by Fredlyfish4)

First vote in a new Congress

The U.S. Senate vote on cloture - breaking the prospect of a filibuster, and allowing for a straight-up vote - on the mega-public lands bill (Senate Bill 22, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act) passed, 66-12 today, and those 12 were all Republicans, most among the most conservative of Senate Republicans. The yea votes included 12 Republicans also, the remainder being among the 20 senators not casting a vote. (The cloture vote was in response to a challenge from Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, who almost single-handedly has been blocking these measures for years.)

Owyhee Canyonlands

In the Owyhee Canyonlands/photo by John McCarthy via Owyhee Initiative

It includes a pile of lands efforts for Oregon, including Mount Hood designation, and one big one for Idaho, the Owyhee Canyonlands wilderness plan. The Canyonlands has been one of Idaho Senator Mike Crapo's major legislative efforts, and his vote for cloture meant a vote for his own proposal. The aye votes from the four Democrats from Washington and Oregon were no surprise. But how would the region's new Republican senator, Jim Risch from Idaho, vote? From his office this afternoon:

Senator Jim Risch cast his first floor vote in the U.S. Senate at an unusual time – Sunday afternoon. The cloture vote, which ended debate on S. 22, came at 2 p.m.

Senator Risch cast a “yes” vote to end debate on a public lands bill that contains several items important to Idaho. Those items include setting aside a portion of the Owyhee Canyonlands as wilderness, funding for several water project studies in southern Idaho, conveying 165 acres of BLM land to the City of Twin Falls, and adding Morley Nelson’s name to the Birds of Prey Conservation Area.

“I am very pleased that my first vote in the U.S. Senate was in support of Senator Crapo’s Owyhee Initiative,” said Risch. ”Like the roadless proposal that I worked on as Governor, this land use legislation is the result of a long collaborative effort by local elected officials, ranchers, recreationists, conservationists, and tribes. The resulting bill protects the livelihood of working ranch families, and provides certainty for recreationists and important cultural resources, as well as outstanding scenic backcountry areas.”

Risch surprised a lot of people with a governorship (brief but energetic) that included some genuine environmental activism. Any questions about whether that would carry over to the Senate seem to be answered.

The cloture vote, by the way, clarifies that the bill is almost certain to pass by a large margin, and has a good shot at becoming law in a matter of weeks.