BRC National Wilderness Legislation Update (1 Viewer)

May 8, 2008

Dear BRC Action Alert Subscriber,

There has been a bit of movement in several Wilderness bills across our great Nation recently, and we thought today would be a great day for a update!

Before I begin, a disclaimer. This update won't cover all of the various wilderness and other land use bills pending. If we miss any bills in your area, we apologize and ask that you shoot us an email and we'll include it in our next update.

After reading the update, a lot of you will want to know how you can help. I've included an Action Alert on two bills that saw Senate committee hearing yesterday. Emails to Senator's today will be very effective. Please take a minute to email your Senator.

Brian Hawthorne
Public Lands Policy Director
BlueRibbon Coalition
208-237-1008 ext 102


Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Subcommittee for Public Lands and Forests heard testimony on two important Wilderness bills: Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson's Boulder/White Clouds Wilderness bill, known as the “Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act” (CIEDRA S. 3294) and S. 3310, a bill to designate 48,000 acres of Wilderness in South Dakota's Buffalo National Grasslands, officially known as Tony Dean Cheyenne River Valley Conservation Act of 2010.

In addition to these two bills, it appears that H.R. 3914, the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act of 2009, a bill that will designate approximately 60,000 acres of Wilderness in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado is gaining support.

Of the legislation currently moving on Capitol Hill, the Idaho bill has recreationists most concerned. The Boulder-White Cloud mountains are home to premier high altitude snowmobiling and epic mountain bike single track (almost 80 miles!), all of which will be closed if the CIEDRA bill passes.

BRC and the Idaho Recreation Coalition (IRC) are working hard to stop CIEDRA, but the situation looks grim, as both Idaho's Senator's are now co-sponsors. Hope is not lost, however, as Idaho's Governor Butch Otter has written a letter opposing CIEDRA. We've posted IRC and Governor Otter's comments here.

South Dakota's bill is also facing some stiff opposition. Yesterday, South Dakota Senator John Thune spoke before the before the Senate subcommittee on S. 3310. During the statement, Senator Thune welcomed Scott Edoff, a South Dakota rancher and lessee, to the committee and Senator Thune reiterated many of the concerns he has heard from local stakeholders regarding the proposed wilderness designation.
A video of Senator Thune’s statements can be accessed on his website at the link below:
The full hearing can be accessed at the link below:

Confusion and controversy erupted in Colorado's Hidden Gems Wilderness campaign yesterday, as Colorado Rep. Jared Polis scrambled to clarify his position on the proposal after an AP story hit the mainstream press:
Polis: Will take time needed on wilderness plan
By: SAMANTHA ABERNETHY, Associated Press

Polis rushed this clarification out yesterday afternoon:
Polis Statement on Misleading Hidden Gems AP Article

Polis is quoted as saying:
“I am continuing to review the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal, and will continue to work with all interested parties to go over the proposal, trail by trail. While nothing has been finalized or a timeline set, after meeting with over 1,000 area residents earlier this month, I am more optimistic than ever that a consensus can be reached.”

We certainly hope so. The current proposal would close some popular snowmobile areas, including Elliot Ridge, Lower Piney, Hoosier Ridge, Porcupine Gulch, Clear Fork, Hay Park and Ten Mile.

You can tell the wilderness lobby is concerned when the advocacy “journalists” begin demonizing OHV and snowmobile users:
OUT THERE: Wilderness effort for "hidden gems" causes open conflict

No one really knows what Rep. Polis will do next. BRC, and several Colorado recreational groups, including the White River Forest Alliance (WRFA) and the Colorado Snowmobile Association (CSA) are working to protect recreational access to these areas. Stay up to date by subscribing to BRC's Action Alert list.

Montana's Senator Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is another “compromise” bill that has seen controversy and contention. Apparently, lobbyists for the Wilderness groups got their hands on a draft version of the bill that had all of the logging provisions removed.

This was big news because Tester's bill is an attempt to break the existing lawsuit-logjam in Montana by mandating 70,000 acres of overgrown and unhealthy National Forest land be treated, including... “GASP” commercial timber operations!

Of course, the wilderness lobbyists can't have that, and we expect this version of the draft was released to put pressure on Tester to remove at least some of the logging in the bill. Thus far, Sen. Tester is holding firm, saying the logging provisions are non-negotiable.

Also non-negotiable, unfortunately, is the Senator's stubborn refusal to remove the popular Mount Jefferson Snowmobile area from his bill. While the Forest Service new management plan has it designated as a managed snowmobile area, Tester's bill goes against the Forest Plan and closes the entire area.
Forest bill draft cuts logging mandate, but Tester won't support

Tester calls forest bill changes 'dead on arrival'

Meanwhile, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is seeking to up the anti in the Utah wilderness debate by convincing Colorado's Senator Mark Udall to become the Western Champion of their unfathomably massive 10 million acre BLM Wilderness bill.

They've been spending some of their $$ millions on a major pr campaign in Colorado. They even have a “road show” with video's and PowerPoint presentations.
Presentation features Utah red rocks country
And... Southern Utah: Grand Junction's backyard

We're of mixed feelings about this. If Udall does champion SUWA's bill, that will bring some influential Western lawmakers in active support, potentially forcing the bill down Utah's throat (none of Utah's Congressional Delegation supports the bill). However, the increased public attention Udall could bring to the bill may result in more of the general public actually looking at SUWA's proposal.

SUWA's professionally produced media is all about scenic landscapes and how they are threatened with devastation and destruction by Big Oil and Big ORV. They seldom mention the restrictions Wilderness brings, or the actual acreage figures, and I've noticed their maps focus on specific areas, not the total statewide proposal. That's smart because SUWA's bill would close nearly 50% of BLM land in Utah, and place virtually all of the spectacularly scenic areas off limits to all who are not healthy and hardy enough to hike long distances. Once the general public understands what Wilderness really means, and learns just how much SUWA wants closed, support for this bill drops precipitously.

Udall may want to think twice. There are a lot of Colorado voters who visit and enjoy Utah's scenic backcountry!

Udall may lead regional wilderness issue


On Wednesday, June 16, 2010 the Public Lands and Forests subcommittee heard testimony on two public lands bills.

The South Dakota bill will close 48,000 acres to motorized and mountain bike use and make it nearly impossible for traditional use of agate beds.

Idaho's Boulder/White Clouds Wilderness bill, known as the “Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act” (S. 3294) will close just under 80 miles of epic high alpine mountain bike single track and tens of thousands of acres of supreme high altitude snowmobiling.

What you need to do:
Please send your Senator a quick email. You can use the comment letter below, and add some personal information about how important off-highway vehicle, snowmobile and mountain bike recreation are to you. Remind your Senator that Wilderness banns all of these popular uses.

You can find your Senators contact information by clicking on BRC's Rapid Response Center and entering your zip code:


Dear Senator,
I am emailing you today regarding two bills that were heard in testimony yesterday: S. 3294 the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act and S. 3310, the Tony Dean Cheyenne River Valley Conservation Act of 2010.

S. 3294 and S. 3310 are BAD for recreation. Please support efforts to modify these bills to protect the existing recreational uses in both of these areas.

The South Dakota bill will close 48,000 acres to motorized and mountain bike use. This area is currently well managed by the U.S. Forest Service. OHV use is limited to designated routes. There is no need for the restrictions Wilderness designation imposes on these lands.

S. 3294 “CIEDRA” will close just under 80 miles of epic high alpine mountain bike single track and tens of thousands of acres of supreme high altitude snowmobiling.

CIEDRA will take approximately 150,000 acres of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) that is ALREADY PROTECTED (no logging – no mining- no roadbuilding) and turn it into Wilderness. The only difference between the SNRA and Wilderness is the SNRA allows a diverse range of recreation to occur.

CIEDRA WILL put 332,775 acres into the most restrictive land management designation on the planet: Wilderness precludes any motorized use, including using chainsaws to maintain trails. Wilderness bans all mountain bike use. Wilderness puts limits on group size (usually “12 heartbeats”) and often requires permits and fees for overnight visits. Wilderness limits the State of Idaho's ability to protect and manage for wildlife and wildfire.

When considering designating public lands as Wilderness, Congress and federal land managers are advised to consider the “relative scarcity” of Wilderness in the area. In this area, there is certainly no scarcity of Wilderness. In addition to the 217,000 acre Sawtooth Wilderness that is right across the valley, immediately to the north is the largest Wilderness in the lower 48 states, the 2.3 Million acre Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness, and contiguous to that (separated only by a single dirt road) is the 1.3 Million acre Selway/Bitteroot Wilderness. Adjacent to both of these vast Wilderness areas is the 206,000 acre Gospel Hump Wilderness.

There is no threat to these lands. No large commercial clear cut logging operations are pending. No mining operations, with bulldozers at the ready, can or will threaten these lands. Recreational use is intensively managed with an emphasis on protecting natural resources. This legislation seems to be “Wilderness for the sake of Wilderness,” and nothing more.

Thank you for considering my views on these important bills. I hope you will support efforts to modify or changes these bills to protect recreational access. Please keep me informed.




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