BOISE -- A coalition of Idaho outdoor enthusiasts is calling on President Obama to create a national monument in the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains in central Idaho.
The 760,000-acre region is part of the largest roadless area in the lower 48 states, includes more than a dozen mountain peaks over 11,000 feet, and provides countless recreational opportunities for people.
It's also one Idaho's most controversial remote areas.
PREVIOUS PROPOSALS HAVE FAILED
That's because Idaho politicians, including U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson, have proposed various protection plans for the area. Simpson's latest attempts have included designating the mountains as a federally-protected wilderness area, but have failed to win approval in Congress.
Now, the newly-formed Sportsmen for the Boulder-White Clouds hopes to sway the president to protect the area as a national monument under the lesser-known Antiquities Act, a law that would allow its creation by a presidential proclamation.
The group's spokesman, John Caywood, says the idea is to prevent development, logging, mining, and restrict irresponsible off-road vehicle use in the area. He says the group wants to protect hunting and fishing rights and other low-impact recreation opportunities.
"Congress is broke," Caywood said. "We just had the shutdown, that's evidence of it. There's no sign that Congress is going to do anything effective. So we think a monument proclamation is the way to go."
Caywood says his group hopes to attract supporters from various outdoor groups, including the Idaho Wildlife Federation, Ada County Fish and Game League, and Idaho Chukar Foundation.
Jim Nunley is the soft-spoken president of the Idaho Wildlife Federation. Nunley spoke to a group of stakeholders that gathered Tuesday morning in Boise to discuss the issue.
"If you don't preserve it when you have the chance, the next time your turn around and look around, it'll be gone," Nunley said, winning nods from the audience.
HOW WOULD THE NATIONAL MONUMENT BE RUN?
But how would the national monument be run?
The group says the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management should continue to monitor the land, and they want the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to manage the animals. They want as little federal government oversight as possible, and want to avoid management by the National Park Service, as is the case at the nearby Craters of the Moon National Monument in Arco.
Critics of the idea say the Boulder-White Clouds are already partially protected under the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA), which covers a large portion of the area from Ketchum to Stanley and beyond.
Gary O'Malley is the executive director of the 800-member Sawtooth Society. O'Malley says while the idea of protecting the Boulder-White Clouds is positive, it's important to clarify what rules and regulations would change in the entire SNRA.
"We have questions about what additional protection is wanted," O'Malley told KTVB. "What additional protection is appropriate, and what would be the impact on the current legislation?"
We reached out to Congressman Simpson's office for comment on the matter. The congressman replied in an email, saying it would be better to pass legislation to protect the area than to ask the president.
“For over a decade, I’ve said if we don’t determine our own destiny in the Boulder-White Clouds, it will be determined for us,” Simpson wrote. “While I’m not surprised there is a push for a national monument designation, I still believe it would be better to pass legislation such as I have offered to solve this long-time debate.”
In the meantime, those interested in learning more about the proposed national monument are encouraged to visit the Sportsmen for the Boulder-White Clouds website for more information.