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Week of 12.28.2007

How Green?

NOTE: This program first aired Jan. 5, 2007.

Video: How Green?
Video iconVideo: How Green?
Can an unlikely collaboration save Idaho's wilderness? A Republican congressman and the Idaho Conservation League have joined forces to protect a vast swath of the state's natural environment.

The legislation, the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA), transfers some public land -- land Americans across the country pay for -- to private local ownership in exchange for protection of nearby wilderness. It also leaves land bordering the wilderness open to further recreational use, especially involving off-road vehicles.

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That price is too high for some, including singer-songwriter Carole King, who owns a 128-acre ranch in Idaho. NOW talks to residents, ranchers, off-road vehicle fans, and wilderness advocates to unearth the truth behind a tug-of-war that is playing out not just in Idaho, but in other states and the halls of the U.S. Congress.

"Some people thought I'd lost my mind when I said we'll try to solve this problem. But you know, that's the reason you're here. You're elected to try and solve problems" Rep. Mike Simpson tells NOW.

Carole King is unconvinced, telling NOW the Gem State's wilderness "is a rare and precious jewel. It's Idaho's Hope Diamond. And if you cut it up into little tiny pieces, just like the Hope Diamond, the little pieces aren't worth anything. It's the aggregate that we want to protect." King and U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays support another bill, the Rockies Prosperity Act.

Bill Jones, president of the Idaho All-Terrain Vehicle Association, told NOW, "In my personal opinion, Idaho has enough wilderness areas...When you make a wilderness area, that turns that area into a land of no use."

ATVs, which didn't exist when the Wilderness Act was written, have jumped in Idaho from 18,000 registered vehicles five years ago to 118,000 today, according to Jones.

Related Links:

» NOW: A Closer Look at the Wilderness Act

» The CIEDRA Bill (PDF, 175KB)

» The CIEDRA Bill presentation (PDF, 1.35MB)

In Favor of CIEDRA

Idaho Conservation League

The Wilderness Society

The Sawtooth Society

Boulder White Clouds Council

Opposed to CIEDRA

Rockies Prosperity Act Network

Northern Rockies Chapter of the Sierra Club

Western Lands Project

Wilderness Watch

Blue Ribbon Coalition

Carole King's recorded testimony against CIEDRA (PDF)