BOISE, Idaho — Republican Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho is asking President Barack Obama to hold off designating a rugged swath of central Idaho as a national monument.
Simpson said he's asking the president for six to eight months to give him time to work on passing legislation for the area that would create some wilderness while opening other areas for development.
"They're ready to move sooner than later on this," Simpson told the Idaho Statesman (http://bit.ly/1t2liN4) in a story Sunday. "What I've asked them to do is give me the opportunity to pass this in Congress."
Simpson's Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act would create three wilderness areas totaling 332,775 acres while releasing 130,000 acres from a wilderness study area to a multiple-use designation.
But that plan for years has failed to get through Congress, in part because other Idaho congressmen don't support it and Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has refused to back it.
So some groups are asking Obama to use his executive power under the Antiquities Act to create a 592,000-acre national monument that includes the rugged Boulder and White Cloud mountains.
Sally Jewell, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, said on a visit to Idaho last week that she supports Simpson's efforts.
"We'd love to see legislation passed," Jewell said. But she added the president is "not afraid to use his pen."
Simpson predicted the area will receive some kind of designation.
"By the end of next year, it will be a national monument or we will have passed a wilderness bill, one of the two," he said.
Republican Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, who accompanied Jewell on the trip to south-central Idaho to view sage grouse habitat, declined to say whether he supports Simpson's bill.
"I'm a complete advocate for the collaborative process, and you all know I think this is an issue that Congress should resolve," Crapo said.
Simpson said Crapo and Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, could work with him on his bill or likely see Obama take action.
"Do they want to do this bill, or do they want the Obama administration to do a national monument and blame the administration for it?" Simpson said.
Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com