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HCR 51: Recognizing SNRA’s 50th Anniversary V2.0 – 2022

Summary: House Concurrent Resolution 51 recognizes the role of Idahoans in protecting the Sawtooth NRA.

ICL's position: Support

Current Bill Status: Dead

Issue Areas: Public Lands

Official Legislative Site

HCR 51 is the latest version of SCR 117, a resolution to recognize the role that Idahoans played in the conservation of the majestic Sawtooth Mountains through the passage of the Sawtooth National Recreation Act of 1972.

Sponsored by Rep. Ned Burns (D-Bellevue), the resolution celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) and recognizes the efforts of Idaho citizens and elected officials to protect this iconic landscape for the benefit of future generations of Idahoans and all Americans.

The SNRA encompasses 756,000 acres and includes the Sawtooth, Boulder, and White Cloud Mountains, along with portions of the Pioneer and Smoky Mountains. As the high mountain snows that blanket the region during the long winter months melt, the region gives rise to iconic river systems including the Salmon, Payette, Boise, and Big Wood Rivers.

The previous version of the resolution failed on the House floor based on objections from Rep. Judy Boyle( R-Midvale). Specifically, she was concerned that the resolution stated that “land management agencies consider changes to future public land designations…only through a transparent process that includes input from Idahoans, including those most impacted by new designations.” How increased government transparency and public involvement is a bad thing is beyond us. Regardless, let’s hope that HCR 51 has better luck.


Since time immemorial, the Tukudeka inhabited the Sawtooth Valley and surrounding mountains. Known also as the Mountain Sheepeaters, the Tukudeka are part of the Eastern and Northern Shoshone Tribes, which are now part of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. In 1905, the lands were reserved from the public domain by President Theodore Roosevelt, as the Sawtooth Forest Reserve, later renamed the Sawtooth National Forest.

Early advocates of the area include “Two Gun” Bob Limbert, who built Redfish Lake Lodge and saw the prospect of developing a recreational mecca among the area’s glacier-carved peaks and alpine lakes. As early as 1911, the Idaho Federation of Women’s Clubs passed a resolution seeking to protect the area. And in 1913, Idaho’s congressional delegation introduced a measure to designate the area as a national park, under the management of the Department of Interior. Senator William Borah introduced a bill in 1935 that sought to develop a small 960 acre national park in the area, and Sen. James Pope introduced a competing measure in 1935 seeking a larger park designation with allowances for water development and mining. Neither bill passed, and in 1937, the Forest Service established the Sawtooth Primitive Area, a precursor to wilderness designation.

In 1960, Senator Frank Church introduced a bill to study a potential park designation, and over the ensuing 12 years, debates focused on whether the area should be managed by the National Park Service (Department of Interior) or the Forest Service (Department of Agriculture). Some were concerned that designation of a park would restrict or limit existing uses, including hunting, mining, and ranching. A national recreation area concept was floated in 1965, and over the ensuing 7 years, hearings were held in Washington, DC and in Sun Valley on a variety of proposals.

In the end, the national recreation area designation won out, and the Idaho congressional delegation played the key role in navigating this compromise. The bill withdrew the SNRA from mining but allowed hunting to continue. The compromise proposal was ultimately supported by both Senators Frank Church and Len Jordan, along with Representatives Orval Hansen and James McClure who participated in a formal dedication event on the shores of Redfish Lake on September 1, 1972. At that event, Rep. Hansen proclaimed, “if the [Sawtooth National Recreation Area] is a monument to anything, it is a monument to people willing to compromise.