The push to protect almost 300,000 acres in central Idaho has picked up steam the last few weeks. A bill that would designate the Boulder-White Clouds mountains a wilderness area is in front of the U.S. Senate this week, and if it passes, will be on President Obama’s desk next. Many people within the conservation community are crossing their fingers that day will be soon.
But for some who want the area protected, the wilderness bill also represents a loss. Brett Stevenson is on the board of the Wood River Bicycle Coalition. The mountain biker and environmentalist says the Boulder-White Clouds offer some of the best bike trails around.
“They are high alpine, big backcountry rides that don’t exist anywhere else in the state," says Stevenson, "and frankly don’t exist in the rest of the region.”
But as Rep. Mike Simpson’s, R-ID, bill to preserve the area passed the U.S. House last week, Stevenson saw the likelihood of her riding those trails in the future start to slip away. Mountain biking isn't allowed in wilderness areas.
That’s why Stevenson and her organization have been working to designate a Boulder-White Clouds national monument instead. Unlike a wilderness area, monuments don't take an act of Congress - but rather the president. Stevenson says the recent momentum in Washington came down to politics.
“There’s some Idahoans, in particular our delegation, that were not excited to see President Obama use his executive order,” she says.
Stevenson says mountain bikers stand to lose access to about two dozen trails.
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