President Barack Obama signed the Boulder-White Clouds bill into law this morning at The White House.
“I think everybody here knows that one of the prettiest states that we have with some of the greatest national treasures is the great state of Idaho,” President Obama said. “I am very proud to be able to sign this piece of legislation, enacted by the House of Representatives, entitled the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and the Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act. And what this does is it designates three additional wilderness designations in the great state of Idaho.”
The legislation, HR 1138, was sponsored by Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson in the House and it will protect almost 276,000 acres in central Idaho. An identical bill was sponsored in the Senate by Senator Jim Risch.
In a statement earlier this week, Simpson had said the passage of the bill by the House and Senate was “a huge victory for Idahoans who’ve worked for over 15 years to create a land management plan for the Boulder White Clouds.”
“These are some of the most magnificent pieces of land, not only in Idaho, but in the United States,” Risch said on the floor of the Senate this week.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell commended the President for signing the bill into law. “Idaho’s Boulder White Clouds is a spectacular corner of our country and is absolutely deserving of the recognition and permanent protection it receives today,” she said in a statement.
“This has been an extraordinary week and a half,” Rick Johnson, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League, said in a press release. “This represents an amazing accomplishment for Rep. Mike Simpson and Sen. Jim Risch. We thank them for their leadership, as will generations to come.”
The new law designates three Wilderness areas in the Sawtooth and Challis National Forests, including the White Clouds Wilderness (90,769 acres), the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness (67,998 acres), and the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness (116,898 acres) as parts of the National Wilderness Preservation System. The law also provides for several land conveyances in Idaho, and releases four wilderness study areas so that the land will be managed for multiple-use activities.
The Idaho Conservation League and others had been pushing for a national monument designation for the area.
“For decades, the Idaho Conservation League has worked to conserve the Boulder-White Clouds, working with Idahoans from all walks of life,” the ICL’s Johnson said in the press release. “In those conversations, we’ve made many concessions and compromises, because that is how the process works. After all, we all have a stake in how these lands are managed. The national monument proclamation ICL and others have been working towards over the last three years would have protected more acreage, but in the end, Congress decided the time for talk was over, and protected 275,000 acres as wilderness. At the end of the day, we are pleased that one of Idaho’s most treasured areas finally gets the lasting protection it deserves.”
The U.S. Forest Service, which will manage most of the designated areas, hopes to have maps available as soon as possible.
“This is a remarkable area,” President Obama said. “It is used by fishermen, hunters, rafters, people taking hikes. It is not only beautiful, but it’s also an important economic engine for the state — attracting tourism, creating jobs.”
Posted April 7, 2015