FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 9, 2015
Nineteen Scientists Unite in Urging Administration Officials to Support a
National Monument for Idaho’s Boulder-White Clouds
(BOISE)—A group of more than nineteen retired biologists and resource managers released a letter addressed to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell enumerating the many unique ecological and cultural values of central Idaho’s Boulder-White Clouds area, and urging the Administration officials to support the establishment of a national monument for more than 570,000 acres in Central Idaho.
Michael Gibson of Sportsmen For Boulder-White Clouds, who worked with the group of scientists to draft the letter, noted, “Much of the debate around the need for a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument has centered on questions about whether existing protections do enough to preserve the fish and wildlife resources in the area, and whether the land is truly being threatened. Having so many natural resources experts unified in urging the stronger protections that a monument would afford should quell any doubts.”
Among the many ecological values of the Boulder-White Clouds, the scientists name the area’s cold, high mountain salmon spawning areas as unique. According to the letter, salmon, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, migrate farther and climb higher than any other fish on earth when they swim from the Pacific to the Boulder-White Clouds. Additionally, the US Forest Service identified the waters of the Boulder-White Clouds as one of the last likely refuges for cutthroat and brown trout, as climate change continues to warm most Western waters past the point of being able to sustain cutthroat and brown trout fisheries. The scientists also point out that threatened species such as sage grouse, and wildlife critical to Idaho’s hunting tradition, including Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain goat, moose, elk, deer, black bear, pronghorn, and mountain lion, all call the Boulder-White Clouds home.
While a part of the area is currently encompassed by the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, the scientists note that the SNRA does not protect some of the area’s most ecologically important lands and waters, including the East Fork Salmon Watershed and its major tributary Herd Creek.
According to the scientists, a national monument would allow management activities to improve fish and wildlife habitats, control noxious weeds, and restore forests and rangelands where needed. Additionally, the monument would bring the entire landscape under a single, cohesive management plan for the area. The signers urged the Administration to follow precedent set during the establishment of other, similar monuments, preserving the state’s Fish and Game agency’s primacy over fish and wildlife management.
The letter comes in the lead-up to the Administration-imposed June 30th deadline for Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) to move Wilderness legislation in Congress; Sportsmen for Boulder-White Clouds also released an infographic this week on the importance of Western monuments to preserving hunting and fishing opportunities across the west.
See the full text of the letter below:
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
The Honorable Sally Jewell
Secretary of the Interior
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington DC 20240
Subject: Boulder White Clouds National Monument
Dear Secretary Vilsack and Secretary Jewell,
Idahoans have waited decades for comprehensive protections of fish, wildlife, and the important habitat on which they depend in the pristine Boulder-White Clouds landscape of Central Idaho. This landscape, and the associated East Fork Salmon Watershed, is home to some of the most iconic species known to Idaho. Chinook salmon, steelhead, bull trout and westslope cutthroat inhabit its waters, while mountain goat, bighorn sheep, elk and mule deer roam its high peaks and valleys.
Salmon returning to the Boulder-White Clouds migrate further and climb higher than any other on the planet,1 as do its steelhead populations.2 These once-productive salmon populations now face extinction and are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Salmon and bull trout (also listed as threatened) are highly dependent on clear, cold water provided by high elevation habitat found in the Boulder-White Clouds. As the climate warms, these habitats become more important to survival of the species.3 Research done by NOAA scientists conclude that since “global warming will likely reduce potential habitat at lower elevations in the Pacific Northwest and at the southern end of the range in California,” preserving high elevation populations like those in central Idaho and the White Clouds is “a top conservation priority.”4,5 These unique resources should be identified as a core value for protection in any national monument designation.
The Boulder-White Clouds landscape is not just important to fish. Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, elk, deer, black bear, pronghorn, and mountain lions roam the Boulder-White Clouds and pronghorn frequent the Jerry Peak Roadless Area. Nearly a quarter of Idaho’s huntable mountain goat are successfully harvested here each year6 and the Boulder-White Clouds also produce some of the biggest bull elk and mule deer bucks in Idaho. The proposed monument also encompasses habitat that is home to sage grouse, Canada lynx7, fisher, wolverine8, Pygmy rabbit9, Slender moonwort, Whitebark Pine, White Cloud milkvetch and the Wood River sculpin.10 Protecting habitat and managing future impacts for these sensitive and threatened species is critical.
The habitat values have long been recognized, which is why local advocates, users, and members of Idaho’s delegation have worked to protect this area in the past. The Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA), established in 1972, was a good first step in protecting this area. But it is just that—a first step. The SNRA does not include much of the East Fork Salmon Watershed or its major tributary, Herd Creek.11
A monument would allow management activities to improve fish and wildlife habitats, control noxious weeds, and restore forests and rangelands where needed. A Boulder-White Clouds monument would have the added bonus of bringing what is essentially one landscape under a single, cohesive management plan for the area. As is the case with many other landscape-scale monuments in the West, we would urge that hunting and fishing traditions be protected as well as the Idaho Fish and Game’s primacy over fish and wildlife management.
The clearest path to permanently protecting the Boulder-White Clouds is through the Antiquities Act. We’ve waited decades for a legislative approach to protect the area and continuing to wait is no longer feasible. Therefore, we the undersigned biologists and resource managers, support the establishment of a national monument that would protect these unique values from new developments, mining or irresponsible motorized use and ask that you call on the current Administration to establish a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument.
Robert A. Adair, Bureau of Reclamation, Retired
Robert Barbo, Bureau of Reclamation, Retired
Chuck Blair, Wildlife Biologist, Retired
Bert Bowler, Idaho Fish and Game, Retired
George Farrow, Bureau of Land Management, Retired
William H. Goodnight, Idaho Fish and Game, Retired
Todd Graeff, Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, Retired
David B. Hayes, US Forest Service, Retired
Roy F. Heberger, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Retired
Mark Hill, M.S. Fisheries Science
William D. Horton, Idaho Fish and Game, Retired
Robert House, Bureau of Land Management, Retired
Richard P. Howard, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Retired
Keith Kiler, Idaho Fish and Game, Retired
Keith Lawrence, Nez Perce Tribe, Retired
Sam Mattise, Bureau of Land Management, Retired
Cal McCluskey, Bureau of Land Management, Retired
William S. Platts, US Forest Service, Retired
Thomas L. Rogers, Idaho Fish and Game, Retired
- Crozier, L. G., Hendry, A. P., Lawson, P. W., Quinn, T. P., Mantua, N. J., Battin, J., Shaw, R. G. and Huey, R. B. 2008. “Potential responses to climate change in organisms with complex life histories: evolution and plasticity in Pacific salmon.” Evolutionary Applications, 1: 252–270. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-4571.2008.00033.
- McMillan, Bill. Personal communication, 2013. Mr. McMillan is a renowned expert on the world’s steelhead and steelhead rivers.
- Martin, Jim and Patty Glick 2007. A Great Wave Rising: Solutions for Columbia and Snake River Salmon in the Age of Global Warming. Volume 1 of Light in the River series. NW Energy Coalition, Save Our wild Salmon Coalition, Sierra Club.
- Crozier, L.G. and R.W. Zabel. 2006. “Climate Impacts at Multiple Scales: Evidences for Differential Responses in Juvenile Chinook Salmon.” Journal of Animal Ecology 75: 1100-1109.
- Crozier, L.G., R.W. Zabel and A.F. Hamlet. 2007. “Predicting Differential Effects of Climate Change at the Population Level with Life-cycle Models of Spring Chinook Salmon.” Global Change Biology 14: 1-14.
2014#goa (Units 36A-1, 36A-2, 36A-3, 36A-4 and 36B are in the proposed Boulder-White Clouds National Monument)
- Meyer, K.A., Schill, D.J., Campbell, M.R., Kozfkay, C.C., Cassinelli, J.D. and Elle, F.S. 2007. “Status and Population Characteristics of the Wood River Sculpin in Idaho.” IDFG Report Number 07-51.