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Last week, Lewiston City Council members raised the idea of renaming either Fifth Street between Lewis-Clark State College and the Levee Bypass - or the levee bypass itself - after the late Idaho Gov. Cecil D. Andrus, who died Aug. 24.

"Boise likes to steal things from Lewiston," Nez Perce County Prosecutor Justin Coleman told a city council work session. "So I'd kind of like to steal some of their thunder and make sure we claim Andrus, because he's a north Idaho boy. He was proud of being from up here."

By the same token, Boise Mayor David Bieter wasted no time renaming the park across Jefferson Street from the state Capitol - which is owned by his city - in honor of the four-term governor.

All to the good. Andrus' storied career touched many corners of the Gem State.

Just the same, do not allow too much more time to pass before a grateful state

acknowledges Andrus' legacy where it began nearly a half-century ago: Rename the White Clouds in his honor.

In the 1970 election, Andrus was waging a rematch against Republican Gov. Don Samuelson. The prominent issue at the time was whether to enable the American Smelter and Refining Company to create an open-pit molybdenum mine in the Boulder-White Cloud range.

Samuelson was for it.

" 'They're not going to tear down the mountains; they're going to dig a hole,' " Andrus recalled Samuelson saying.

Andrus was against it.

"The hole was going to be gouged out of the heart of our state, an area with 54 backcountry fishing lakes and an 11,824-foot mountain, Castle Peak, that is the mother of all Idaho landmarks," Andrus wrote in his memoir. "Frog Lake, at its base, was to become a giant tailing pond."

Coming amid a national wave of environmental awareness, the Castle Peak debate elevated Andrus to his first term as governor.

"I beat Don Samuelson, aided by 200,000 Idahoans who carried a hunting or fishing license, and stopped the rape of the White Clouds," Andrus wrote.

To say the least, Andrus and the White Clouds are inextricably linked.

Without Castle Peak, there may not have been a Gov. Andrus - or, for that matter, an Interior Secretary Andrus who capped four years in office by protecting more than 100 million acres in Alaska.

Andrus' victory in that campaign long ago signaled something new in Idaho - a consensus about protecting its special places from mining, road building or dams. From that launching point, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness evolved.

More recently came Sen. Mike Crapo's Owyhee Canyonlands wilderness and Sen. Jim Risch's efforts to create the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness in the Cabinet Mountains near Lake Pend Oreille.

Andrus' legacy came full circle two summers ago when Congressman Mike Simpson passed his own Boulder-White Clouds wilderness package. It closed a 15-year battle for Simpson, who undoubtedly gained some leverage with his fellow Republicans when Andrus suggested President Barack Obama bypass Congress entirely and declare a national monument at the site.

Simpson's bill created three wilderness areas within the Boulder-White Cloud range: the 138-square-mile Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness, the 142-square-mile White Clouds Wilderness and the 183-square-mile Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness.

Attaching Andrus' name to the White Clouds Wilderness would be only the latest example of an Idaho tradition.

In 1984, Sen. Jim McClure, an Idaho Republican, carried to passage a bill renaming the River of No Return in honor of his former Democratic colleague Frank Church while Church was dying of pancreatic cancer.

When Simpson was drafting his latest bill, the Idaho congressman saw to it that McClure would be recognized.

If you want to leave a lasting tribute to Cece Andrus, isn't this the obvious way? - M.T.

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