June 16, 2010

Crapo Statement At CIEDRA Hearning

Spoke before Senate subcommittee on Boulder-White Clouds legislation

Washington, D.C. - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Public Lands and Forest Subcommittee today regarding the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA) legislation. The legislation originally introduced by Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson received a hearing before the subcommittee today. Crapo and Idaho Senator Jim Risch are sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

Thank you, Chairman Johnson, Chairman Wyden and Senator Risch for the invitation to address the subcommittee regarding S. 3294, the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act, also known as CIEDRA. I very much appreciate the opportunity to address the subcommittee today. I also want to thank our witnesses for being here: Rick Johnson, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League and Bill Dart, representing the Idaho Recreation Council. Rick has been in his position for 15 years, and Bill has a long history in land use advocacy over the last 25 years. I am very pleased that these two men could join us today.

Nestled in the rugged, pristine expanse of central Idaho are the Boulder White Cloud Mountains. Located in and adjacent to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and surrounded by the communities of Sun Valley, Ketchum, Stanley, Challis, MacKay, and Clayton, the Boulder White Clouds are truly wild and exquisite. The area has significant value for the many groups that visit it every year, from hunters to hikers to off-road vehicle users and others. In addition to its diversity of elevations and habitat, the biological diversity is incredible, with spawning salmon and steelhead and big game such as elk, mountain goat, bighorn sheep and black bear, among others. Simply put, this area is one of Idaho's greatest assets.

The discussion over how to most effectively manage and protect the Boulder White Clouds dates back decades.  In the 1970s, Republican Senator Jim McClure and Democratic Governor Cecil Andrus found themselves in the middle of a spirited debate over how to balance development, recreation and resource extraction with conservation and environmental protection in the interior west. Faced with the pressures of development and due to the increasing popularity of the area for many user groups inside and outside Idaho, interest groups, elected officials and everyday citizens began discussing the need to manage the area in a way that acknowledged and protected the many uses of these lands while also preserving it for future generations by protecting its pristine nature. Senator McClure and Governor Andrus worked across party lines and made two attempts during the 1980s to find a way forward, but those efforts did not succeed.

I got involved in 1993, shortly after I was sworn in as the representative for Idaho's 2nd Congressional District. I held collaborative meetings across the state in an effort to get this done. While we were hopeful at the beginning, the political dynamics changed, and we faced a stalemate for years. In 1999, after I came to the Senate, Representative Mike Simpson - who was at that time the newly elected Representative in the 2nd District - decided to take another stab at this. Mike decided to start from scratch and see if he could bring the various interests together to forge an agreement that the parties could support. These efforts have taken years, and I want to acknowledge Mike Simpson, his staff and their partners in this process for their hard work. While this bill is not perfect and does need more work, Senator Risch and I are going to continue working with stakeholders from the motorized recreation community to address access issues. We will also continue working with the State of Idaho to address its concerns regarding the value of and access to state land inholdings and the need to effectively manage wildlife within the proposed wilderness areas, among other issues. On that note, Mr. Chairman, Idaho Governor Butch Otter has provided Senator Risch and me with a letter describing the State of Idaho's concerns with this legislation. I would like to ask that the letter be made a part of the record.

Like you, Mr. Chairman, I believe that public land management issues require locally-based collaborative efforts in order to find true, sustainable solutions to the many challenges we face. These decisions ought to be made as a result of on-the-ground, collaborative work between all of the parties involved and affected. For example, I worked for many years on a similar project in southwestern Idaho, and, among others, am now working on another in north-central Idaho, so I know personally the difficulty of this task. We have to undertake these efforts together, in a consensus-based manner, and if we do not, we will never find our way forward. You and your staff know this all too well, Mr. Chairman, as is evidenced by your recent work to resolve forest management challenges in eastern Oregon, for example.

To conclude, I thank our witnesses again for joining us today. I also thank Chairman Bingaman and Ranking Member Murkowski for working with me and Senator Risch on this bill. I also thank their staffs, who have worked closely with me and my staff on this and other bills over the years. David Brooks and Scott Miller with Chairman Bingaman and Frank Gladics with Ranking Member Murkowski have treated my office with great respect and have put in many hours of hard work on legislation to address public land issues in Idaho. I greatly appreciate them and look forward to continuing our work together.
And I want to thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for inviting me to speak here today.