In my Boise ICL office, I have a copy of every version of
Rep. Mike Simpson’s Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA). They start with the very first introduction of the
bill in 2004 to the version now before Congress. There are little notes across
the top from the Congressman.
"The beginning," he wrote on the first one. "This
is the one," he wrote on the current version. On the year that it was introduced on
the same day by all four members of the delegation-including our two current
senators-he wrote, "All in!"
We certainly never expected this stack of bills to be so
deep, to cover so many years, and to still be mired in one of the most dysfunctional
eras of the U.S. Congress.
No one has more respect than I do for the work of Rep. Simpson to protect the Boulder-White Clouds. I have been there for every step the whole time. I have seen a tremendous amount of work at great political
risk, and I have also seen his personal depth of commitment to this special
place grow profoundly.
Mike Simpson is a legislator. He serves in Congress to do
things, a rare trait these days. The fact that Simpson has stated his intent to
move forward again with his Boulder-White Cloud bill should be no surprise.
Confidence in the legislative process is in his DNA. I’d have been far more
surprised if he stepped away.
While he is a legislator, as the director of the
Idaho Conservation League, I am a conservation advocate. Different jobs.
While the Idaho Conservation League applauds Simpson’s
stated intent to move his bill forward in the new Congress, ICL’s experience
gained over this long and winding trail suggests that the hill is too steep. We
simply do not believe Congress can get it done, and we certainly don’t have
signals from Idaho senators that they intend to help.
Meanwhile, we have very strong signals from the Obama administration that a national monument process could result in many of the
same protections and actually get the job done.
We have several reasons for not changing course:
and most important, the only clear and the most viable path to secure permanent
protection of this area is through a monument designation.
- Second, while honoring
Simpson’s deep commitment to this place, we do not believe that the bill will pass
- Third, a strong coalition supports a national monument
designation, which is the only reason that there is any prospect of congressional action.
as former governor and Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus said this past
week, if the delegation wants to pass a bill, that’s fine, but the President should create the monument first to ensure that something gets done. Many of our
greatest conservation treasures were created exactly this way.
Finally, observers have cautioned us that delegation support
of Simpson’s effort could be a delaying tactic to let the clock run out on the administration. I’m generally not that cynical, but after all we’ve seen take
place over the years, it’s best to stay focused on what can do to protect the Boulder-White Clouds.
It’s time to get the job done, simple as that, and the
monument would do it.