Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch today voiced concerns received from Idahoans over a provision in a bill that would close-off snowmobile access along portions of the Idaho/Montana border. The comments were made during a hearing on S. 1470, by the Senate Energy Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forest, where Risch serves and was acting Ranking Member.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and cosponsored by Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), would designate approximately 4,500 acres as wilderness in the Mount Jefferson area of Montana. It would eliminate winter motorized recreation where it is currently allowed. Risch and Crapo applauded their colleagues for their collaborative work and highlighted the challenges associated with it, but encouraged them to include the concerns of Idahoans moving forward.
"We always like to see the impetus of plans like this come from the state as opposed to the banks of the Potomac," said Risch. "In Idaho we did it with 9.3 million acres of roadless areas. That process worked by carefully listening to concerns and finding ways to incorporate different visions into the final product. I am optimistic the same spirit exists for this legislation."
"Our experience with the Owyhee Initiative proves collaboration works. Idaho had a seat at today's hearing on Senator Tester's bill and that is a promising development in this ongoing work to reach consensus on the bill." Crapo said. Idaho's senior senator was able to attend a portion of the meeting before leaving for his committee meeting.
Fremont County Commissioner, Skip Hurt, was invited to testify at the hearing. His testimony focused on the economic impact of the Mount Jefferson wilderness issue.
"We have already lost areas to ride snowmobiles due to forest regeneration and restrictions to quantity and type of snowmobiles in Yellowstone Park. If we lose Mount Jefferson, we lose another 2,500 acres to ride in," said Hurt. "We need to understand that the snowmobile tracks on Mount Jefferson will melt in the spring, but if the southern portion of Mount Jefferson is put into wilderness, the economy of Island Park, Idaho will probably be devastated."
There will be further work on the bill before it is submitted to the full committee for a vote.