In 2015, an event occurred that forever changed the landscape of Idaho’s pristine wilderness: President Obama signed the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act, designating three new wilderness areas as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Nestled within these areas are the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness, Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness, and Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness, collectively preserving 275,665 acres of high mountain backcountry with crystal-clear lakes and abundant wildlife.
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To safeguard these natural treasures and ensure they remain unspoiled for generations to come, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) embarked on a crucial mission to develop a comprehensive wilderness management plan for two of these wilderness areas: the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness and Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness. This project was no small feat, as it required careful translation of the Wilderness Act, agency policies, and regulations into a cohesive wilderness management plan that would serve as the primary guiding document for managing these awe-inspiring lands for years to come.
The Journey of Crafting the Wilderness Management Plan
The project, carried out by the dedicated Peak Science Communications (PSC) team, aimed to accomplish multiple objectives. PSC’s mission was to assist the Forest Service and BLM in creating an effective WMP that would ensure the preservation of wilderness character, establish clear management objectives, and facilitate public involvement in the planning process. With the proximity of these two wilderness areas, similar natural resources, and administrative jurisdiction, the decision was made to integrate the administration of both areas into a single plan.
1. Translating Vision into Action
The first and foremost task was to draft a wilderness management plan that adhered to the overarching direction of the Sawtooth National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan). PSC worked diligently with the Forest Service to amend the Forest Plan to include a new management area that encompassed both the Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness and the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness. At the same time, portions of existing management areas were modified to exclude lands designated as Wilderness. This comprehensive approach necessitated changes in various aspects, including air quality, vegetation, wildlife, and recreation.
2. Environmental Assessment for an Informed Decision
To ensure the wilderness management plan was grounded in accurate and scientific information, an Environmental Assessment (EA) was completed. PSC collaborated with Forest Service and BLM specialists to analyze the proposed action’s direct, indirect, and cumulative effects in the EA. The team meticulously cross-checked the proposed action elements between the resource reports and the EA, ensuring technical and legal defensibility while complying with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements and other pertinent laws and regulations.
3. Public Engagement and Feedback
A public comment period was initiated to capture diverse perspectives and incorporate public opinions. PSC diligently analyzed the received comments, identified relevant issues, and worked closely with the project manager to address modifications needed for the proposed action. This inclusive approach enriched the wilderness management plan and fostered a sense of stewardship among the public, encouraging active participation in preserving these wilderness areas.
4. Record Keeping for Accountability
Maintaining a meticulous administrative record was of utmost importance. PSC took charge of organizing and managing the official project record, ensuring all decisions and actions were transparent and accessible. This record was later delivered in electronic format, meeting the Forest Service Planning Appeals and Litigation System database requirements.
The Cecil D. Andrus–White Clouds and Hemingway–Boulders Wilderness Management Planning project was a remarkable endeavor that united conservation efforts to protect Idaho’s breathtaking wilderness areas. Through dedicated collaboration with the Forest Service and BLM, PSC successfully helped these agencies craft a wilderness management plan that honored the legacy of these lands, balancing preservation with thoughtful management. By complying with environmental regulations and engaging the public, this plan promises to safeguard the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness and Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness for future generations to cherish and enjoy.
Embracing the spirit of the Wilderness Act, this wilderness management plan represents a beacon of hope for the harmonious coexistence of humanity and nature, proving that with thoughtful planning, we can revel in the wonders of the wilderness while ensuring its longevity for all to relish. So, as we embark on our journey to protect and cherish these untouched landscapes, let us remember that together, we hold the key to preserving the irreplaceable treasures of the Hemingway-Boulders and Cecil D. Andrus-White Clouds Wilderness areas.
To read more about projects completed by PSC, see our projects page.