Calling it “a remarkable area,” President Barack Obama on Friday signed legislation creating three new wilderness regions in Idaho, enveloping nearly 275,665 acres of federal land under what the White House says is the strongest level of protection that can be given to public land.
The designation for the wilderness land in the Boulder-White Clouds region comes after years of advocacy by environmentalists and a decade-long push by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, who attended the bill signing at the White House.
“I am grateful to President Obama for his signature on this important legislation and humbled by the tireless work of countless Idahoans that led to its passage,” Simpson said in a statement afterward.
Obama called Idaho “one of the prettiest states that we have with some of the greatest national treasures.” He noted the region’s importance not only in terms of its natural beauty, but also its economic power for attracting tourists and creating jobs.
The new designation will ensure that the land “remains for future generations as it currently is today,” the White House said, “popular for hikers, hunters, and other recreational users.” The area also provides important habitat for diverse wildlife ranging from bighorn sheep to mountain goats and elk
No motorized equipment or mechanized gear, including bicycles, will be allowed on the land. In past years, the legislation to protect the area faced backlash from motorized recreation groups.
The plan sets aside 275,665 acres of the Boulder-White Clouds marked by white peaks, mountain lakes and spectacular scenery into three separate areas: the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness, the White Clouds Wilderness and the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness.
Their designation comes after years of championing by Idaho’s congressional delegation, as well as conservationists, sports enthusiasts and community leaders.
“I am proud that this was accomplished through a truly collaborative process that produced an Idaho solution to decades of conflict and debate,” Simpson said.
Emma Baccellieri: 202-383-6033, @EmmaBaccellieri, firstname.lastname@example.org