SALMON, Idaho • Several hunters said Wednesday they feared the proposed 592,000-acre Boulder-White Clouds National Monument would restrict their right to hunt and fish there.
Those hunters and a former state Fish and Game Commissioner urged the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to oppose the idea.
"That's a big chunk of dirt to restrict hunting," said Nick Rieth, Challis resident and member of the newly-formed Central Idaho Wildlife Group (CIWG).
Rieth's and others' comments came the evening before the Fish and Game Commission's quarterly meeting. Commissioners flew over the proposed 592,000-acre national monument earlier in the Wednesday and are scheduled to hear a staff presentation on the proposal currently before the Obama administration. That meeting is set for
2:20 p.m. today.
Rieth said he was also concerned by what an extra layer of federal management would mean for local wildlife managers.
"The government agencies have a hard enough time doing what they can on the ground now anyways," Rieth said. "You throw more monument restrictions on top of it and it'll muddy the waters even more."
A group called Sportsmen for Boulder-White Clouds has
formed to support the monument. Outreach Coordinator Michael Gibson said the group is pushing for Fish and Game to maintain control over the wildlife in the monument and had not heard such concerns before.
“Everyone I have done outreach with has been pretty open to the idea," he said when reached by phoneWednesday. "Obviously I have not talked to every hunter and angler in the state ... and (with) Fish and Game issues, the opinions run the gamut.”
Mike Arrizubieta, CIWG Chairman, said his group has not taken an official stance on the monument proposal, but said he thinks many of the group's members oppose it.
“I don't believe it,” he said when asked about promises that nothing would change with wildlife management if the area were designated as a monument. “Why do anything if nothing is going to change?”
“There's a hidden agenda there somewhere,” Rieth said.
Gibson said Sportsmen for Boulder-White Clouds hope to keep the area free of new developments, mining and irresponsible off-road vehicle use. He said the monument would also be a tool to make sure wildlife habitat protection becomes a priority.
“It would take habitat to a higher standard,” he said.
Without a centralized body to manage the monument, there would be too many levels of bureaucracy, said Gary Power, former Fish and Game Commissioner and Salmon resident.
Power said he was initially supportive of the monument, but changed his mind when he saw how large it had grown from the about 300,000 acres Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, originally proposed as wilderness managed under a single agency.
As the monument is now proposed, sweeping changes in wildlife management are not a fear, they are inevitable, he said. One only needs to look at a similar promise of no change in wildlife management made before the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness was created.
"We have used helicopters to transplant goats and sheep into the wilderness, but yet you can't use a helicopter to dart a wolf," he said. "It is all in interpretations."
Fish and Game Commissioner Will Naillon said he was concerned about the monument because the rules governing the land are drawn up after the designation has been made.
“As a wildlife manager, you have no understanding or reassurances that you'll be able to manage wildlife,” he said.
Moreover, Naillon took issue with the monument's blanket approach to management, which he said rarely works, especially in an area as diverse as the Boulder-White Clouds.
"You are going from rugged peaks down into desert up into timbered mountains," he said. "To maintain population objectives, a lot of time you have to change strategies from one unit to the next."