When Rick Johnson learned Monday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would designate nearly 300,000 acres in central Idaho as wilderness - he was cautiously optimistic.
Johnson is the executive director of the Idaho Conservation League. He’s among the Idahoans closely watching the progress of a bill sponsored in the House by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.
“It’s not the most functional legislative body the world has ever seen these days, so I think a lot of people retain a certain amount of skepticism,” he says.
The bill designates 296,000 acres of the Boulder-White Cloud mountains as wilderness. Versions of this bill have gone before Congress for almost a decade, but they’ve always failed.
Now that the bill has passed the House, a Senate subcommittee will most likely vote this week on whether or not it should make it to the Senate floor. That bill is identical to the House version, and is sponsored by Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho.
“We’ve been to the alter a few times and seen it not work out,” Johnson says. “Let’s just say the trail is still long, but many of us have gotten a glimpse of the summit and we think we might be getting there.”
If the bill fails in the Senate, Johnson says his organization will push harder than ever for the Obama administration to designate the region a national monument.