Too much giveaway in CIEDRA says new chair of House Resources Committee

House Resources Committee chair, Richard Pombo, the ardent enemy of endangered species and public lands will be the one who becomes extinct January 1, 2007. Meanwhile he remains chair of the committee for the “lame duck” session of Congress which will soon resume.

A big question is the future of CIEDRA, which has drawn both support and opposition from Idaho and national conservationists as well as non-wilderness and anti-wilderness forces. The bill passed the House this year, but has been stuck in Idaho Senator Larry Craig’s Senate subcommittee, much to the dismay of Idaho Representative Mike Simpson, the bill’s sponsor.

Craig, long a foe of wilderness, has been expected to kill the bill or turn it into an anti-wilderness vehicle. His options now increase in the lame dusk session, but decrease afterwards when he will be replaced as subcommittee chair by a Democrat. Will he let it through as it passed the House, kill it, or try the anti-wilderness transformation route?

Republican representative Simpson, just reelected, is expected to reintroduce CIEDRA in the next Congress, but Pombo’s replacement will be Nick Rahill of West Virginia. Rahill is already on record opposing the “land giveaways” to Custer and Blaine County that are in the bill. So if this bill to establish Wilderness in the White Cloud and Boulder Mountains of Central Idaho is to pass a Democratic Congress, the side payments to anti-wilderness groups will probably have to be reduced.



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  1. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    So what is the political cost to Craig if he gets this bill through now or if he lets it slip? He will have his power greatly reduced in January and thus he’ll be less likely to affect it in a meaningful way in the new session. If he lets this through now, he angers his constituents back home and will not have the power to bring the pork like the good old days. If he kills it, there’s the possibility that a reintroduced CIEDRA would be much worse as far as he and his main constituents are concerned.

    Simpson would seem to be motivated to get it through now since I would guess any Democratic action on this bill will make it less palatable to him. Take out the side payments, admittedly a boon to “pure” wilderness advocates, and you take out a big chunk of the local support and the coalition falls apart. Take out the local support and Simpson becomes less relevant on this issue.

    I just don’t see a Republican sponsored Wilderness Bill for Idaho making it through a Democratically controlled Congress. So Simpson should still be motivated to get this done this month. Craig is still the wildcard as I don’t see any payoff for him to get it through the Senate now considering his diminished position some January…

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I’ve been thinking since I posted and you replied.
    There really isn’t time for Craig to do more than kill it or accept the House version. Any changes made by the Senate would have to go to a conference committee. There isn’t time for conference committee.
    I think Simpson will introduce a new bill in the Democratic congress. He wouldn’t mind some pressure make it greener.
    In his original bill, he did have one pro-conservation side payment–to buy out the East Fork of the Salmon River ranchers. This very beneficial provision was removed because Pombo didn’t want things like that to pass. I would bet a new Simpson bill would have the grazing buyout language reinserted.
    Simpson doesn’t need to worry about his job. He is an unassailable Republican in a Republican district.
    I don’t think we need to worry about Craig now. If he kills the bill, maybe a better bill next year. If he lets it through, oh well, we know what its warts are.

  3. Chris Cook Avatar
    Chris Cook

    Killing the bill will have no effect on Craigs future and would be better for the Boulder-Whiteclouds. The Whiteclouds are already protected by a National Recreation Area Designation and wilderness will do little in added protections except attract more people to the area. The Whiteclouds are in pristine condition now without wilderness designation. Why not take all of the money being wasted on this needless endeavor to designate wilderness and instead protect lands that are really in danger like ranches being converted into thousands of ranchetes and the problem of invasive species. Recently Horse Traffic had brought invasive weeds into Warm Springs Meadow, but hopefully the fire killed all of the weeds that were spreading up and down the Warm Springs Drainage. Wilderness would not have stopped this spread of weeds since it continues to allow horses.

    Why not set quotes on the total number of travelers into the Boulder Whiteclouds and give preferential permits to local Idaho users. 4th of July Lake is being loved to death right now by hikers and this should be restricted. Each trailhead should have a maximum carrying capacity where you take into account the real impacts on the land. For example maybe 1 horse would be equal to 10 hikers or mountain bikers.

    The 60s are over and we need some solutions for the future not dwelling in the past with the same old thought that Wilderness Designation is a save all.



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Ralph Maughan