A compromise plan to designate 275,000 acres of wilderness in central Idaho got a much-anticipated hearing in the U.S. Senate Thursday.
The bill would protect what’s known as the Boulder-White Clouds, a striking, alpine section of central Idaho, conveniently next door to tourist hub Sun Valley. Members of Idaho’s congressional delegation say after years of work, they finally have a plan to protect it from development that satisfies local governments, environmental groups, industry and agricultural interests.
Sen. Jim Risch said there are barely any opponents. Except for one faction of outdoor enthusiasts, mountain bikers.
“We weren’t able to find anyone except you,” Risch said to Brett Stevenson, who represented the Wood River Bike Coalition.
Bikes, being mechanized, are not allowed in wilderness areas. Stevenson told the committee that the bill would close several unique backcountry routes. “And I feel like the support for continued access on those trails is vast,” he said.
Stevenson said snowmobiling and heli-skiing locations were spared wilderness designation.
Mountain bikers, along with some environmental groups, have advocated for an alternative plan, asking President Obama to declare the area a national monument.