Risch, Simpson working on central Idaho wilderness plan

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Risch derailed a 2010 wilderness bill but says he's working now with U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson on a scaled-down version as others attempt to persuade President Barack Obama to designate a central Idaho area a national monument.

"I look forward to carrying the bill that is a collaborative product from the stakeholders of Idaho," Risch told the Idaho Statesman (http://bit.ly/1BrLXFA) in a story on Sunday. "Mike Simpson is working to make that happen. I hope he can."

The smaller version of Simpson's Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act would create three wilderness areas totaling about 295,000 acres, about 37,000 acres less than the earlier version. Not everyone is pleased with the latest iteration.

"This is a disappointing departure from the legislation we supported," said Craig Gehrke, Idaho director for The Wilderness Society. "We don't support the removal of thousands of acres of proposed wilderness and are discouraged to see this as a new starting point for congressional consideration."

Part of the reason for the push on the wilderness bill is the potential designation of a national monument. Some groups are asking Obama to use his executive power under the Antiquities Act to create a 592,000-acre national monument that includes the rugged Boulder and White Cloud mountains.

"I spoke to Interior Secretary (Sally) Jewell and U.S. Forest Service Chief (Tom) Tidwell this week and received assurances from both that if (CIEDRA) were enacted, there would be no need or desire for a national monument by the administration," Simpson said.

Simpson has said that Obama administration officials have told him that no national monument will be designated for six months, giving Simpson time to get the wilderness bill through Congress. It's not clear when the bill might be introduced.

Custer County Commission Chairman Wayne Butts opposed the 2010 version. He prefers the more recent idea for wilderness designation rather than a national monument, though.

"I would have to call that the lesser of two evils," Butts said.


Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com

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