Last week was historic with three more national monument designations: Pullman in Chicago, Honouliuli in Hawaii and Browns Canyon in Colorado.  President Obama has now designated 16 national monuments using the executive authority of the Antiquities Act.  The Antiquities Act gives the President authority to permanently protect places of natural, cultural and historic value and, as an Idahoan who loves the outdoors, I support the Boulder-White Clouds as national monument number 17.  

The congressional efforts to save Central Idaho’s Boulder-White Clouds, the largest unprotected roadless area in the U.S. outside of Alaska, are dangerously stalled.  And as a former staff member of Sen. Frank Church (D-Ida.) and former member of Congress myself, I fear further waiting won’t yield a favorable outcome. 


Church instilled in all of his staff a great passion for untrammeled public lands, a legacy that remains today. In his four terms from 1957 to 1981 representing Idaho in the U.S. Senate, Church was an influential leader on many fronts, but is perhaps best known for preserving much of Idaho’s spectacular wild lands and waters.  

He was an integral player in the passage of the landmark Wilderness Act in 1964, one of America’s greatest conservation achievements.  In Idaho, he led successful efforts to protect some of the state’s most treasured landscapes– Gospel Hump, the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, the Sawtooth Wilderness and National Recreation Area, and later the River of No Return Wilderness, re-named the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in his honor. And he and his wife Bethine backed protection of the Boulder-White Clouds region.    

The Boulder-White Clouds is considered one of the last best wild places in North America and deserves permanent protection.  Fishing and hunting opportunities abound.  There is a stunning array of animal species from chukar partridge to wolverine; rugged, alpine terrain for hikes and climbers alike.  With the addition of the East Fork of the Salmon that provides abundant clean water, the area is a literal heaven for sportsmen and outdoor recreation enthusiasts. 

Idahoans are grateful to Rep. Mike Simpson (R) for his tireless efforts on behalf of the Boulder-White Clouds for the past 11 years.  Unfortunately, his bid to gain Wilderness status has repeatedly failed to gain traction in Congress.  The gridlock shows no sign of breaking even now after he’s made several concessions to try to win support.  This is no fault of the Congressman’s but rather another indicator of protracted congressional malaise. 

After waiting for decades, I recently joined 43 of my former colleagues from Church’s office and asked Obama to protect Church’s legacy by proclaiming a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument.  Church’s work isn’t over and it’s time Obama used his authority to protect one of the last “crowning jewels” of Idaho as a national monument. 

LaRocco served in the House from 1991 to 1995 and was the author of the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, PL 103-64.