The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has voted unanimously to oppose creation of a national monument in the spectacular Boulder-White Clouds region of the Sawtooth Mountains. The reason? They fear loss of state control of fishing, hunting and ATV rules.
Idaho Fish and Game commission chair Fred Trevey of Lewiston summed up the decision this way: "without state sovereignty, you won't have hunting, fishing and trapping in any meaningful way".
But several conservation and sportsmen's groups denounced the board's opposition. Jim Nunley, who is president of the Idaho Wildlife Federation, said the vote "blindsided" Idaho sportsmen. He was surprised that fish and game commissioners took the position without consulting wildlife advocacy groups, and with only 30 minutes of debate.
The idea of - and opposition to - protecting several hundred thousand acres of the mountainous region has been ebbing and flowing for about 40 years.
Veteran congressman Mike Simpson began proposing a wilderness area of about 330-thousand acres back in 2001, but one bill after another disappeared into Congressional limbo.
Now, conservationists and recreation advocates want President Obama to designate up to 600,000 acres as a national monument in an effort to side-step Congress. They're looking for a mix of wilderness protections in the high alpine areas, with some road access to popular recreation spots, and wildlife management by the state.
The fish and game commission opposition decision will be sent to the governor and Idaho's congressional delegation, but what effect it will have on the president's decision is not clear.