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Land Protection At Issue in Boulder White Clouds Bill

Two key Idaho lawmakers - Senator Jim Risch and Congressman Mike Simpson - have introduced new bills to protect a huge chunk of Idaho's most rugged, remote wilderness. But the White House has set a do-or-die deadline. Until this year, Risch was the legislative stumbling block, arguing that motorized groups would get the short end of the stick in Simpson's proposal to create some wilderness, some recreation areas in the Boulder-White Clouds region of the Sawtooth Mountains.

But now with some tinkering, both men agree three separate areas - more than 275-thousand acres - should be designated as wilderness; that existing motorized trails should be kept open, and that local governments - Custer County and the city of Stanley - should get some land gifts.

But the White House has given Simpson six months to get his bill through the fractious House - something he's been unable to do in 13 years of trying.

If no bill emerges in that time, the area may be declared a national monument by presidential decree. Several conservation, sportsmen and outdoor business groups have been pushing for the declaration, given the futility of congressional efforts.

A leading U-S think tank, the Pew Charitable Trusts, this week put its weight behind the monument designation, saying in effect, thank you, lawmakers, but you've had more than a decade to get this done with no results.

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