GOVERNOR URGES CONGRESS TO REJECT PLAN TO ALMOST TRIPLE IDAHO WILDERNESS
Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter is urging Congress to reject yet another sweeping attempt by singer/activist Carole King and her supporters to lock up about 9 million more acres of Idaho in wilderness - almost tripling the amount of Idaho acreage withdrawn from multiple use.
In a letter to Congressman Nick Rahall of West Virginia, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, and Congressman Doc Hastings of Washington, the committee's ranking Republican, the Governor called the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA) "a radical wilderness bill of unprecedented scale that will have disastrous consequences for Idaho and the West."
NREPA, H.R. 980, sponsored by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York, would be the second-largest wilderness expansion in U.S. history. It would impose wilderness restrictions on the use of almost 24 million acres across Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington. In addition to Wilderness Study Areas - essentially de facto wilderness where multiple-use is strictly prohibited - Idaho now has 12 designated wilderness areas totaling 4,522,779 acres, so NREPA would almost triple the state's official wilderness acreage.
"The lands that would be designated under NREPA include highly valuable recreation lands critical to Idaho's economic vitality. With the decline of our forest products industries, Idaho communities have had to turn to recreation and tourism as a major source of income," Governor Otter wrote in the May 1 letter. "If NREPA became law, motorized and mechanized recreation - a major component of Idaho's recreation mix - would be prohibited over much of the land base where it takes place today."
The Governor also cited the stark contrast between NREPA and the collaborative process used by Senator Mike Crapo and others in recently winning approval of legislation to designate wilderness in southwestern Idaho's Owyhee Canyonlands. In addition, he wrote, forest health issues plague many of the lands under NREPA.
"Wilderness designation would make natural wildfires impossible to manage and contain within them," he wrote. "The effects of wildfire smoke on Idaho's air quality and the deleterious effects on local communities' watersheds and drinking water in the summer months would turn an increasingly serious problem into a full-fledged disaster."