- Associated Press - Thursday, April 24, 2014

CHALLIS, Idaho (AP) - Conservationist groups have added about 21,000 acres to a proposed national monument in central Idaho, to include petrified sequoia trees.

The Idaho Conservation League, Wilderness Society and others want the Obama administration to create the monument in the Boulder-White Clouds.

The additional acres include Malm Gulch, an area containing petrified trees and managed by the Bureau of Land Management, The Times-News reported in a Wednesday story (https://bit.ly/QB2qow). The added area increases the size of the proposed monument to 591,905 acres.

The Malm Gulch area experienced a volcanic event in the distant past when it was heavily forested, according to the BLM.

“Most of the redwoods or sequoias in the Malm Gulch forest were destroyed by the heat of the eruption,” an agency brochure says. “But some trees were buried by ash and eventually became the petrified remnants you see today.”



An effort to create three wilderness areas in the region while also releasing other lands from wilderness study areas so far have failed, prompting conservation groups to lobby for a national monument.

The groups have released a new monument map, noting trails that would be open to non-mechanized travel, and others opened to mountain bikes and other “human-powered travel.”

Most main access roads into the proposed monument would remain open, said Dani Mazzotta of the Idaho Conservation League.

An agreement between conservation groups and mountain bikers is reflected in the trails on the new map. The map doesn’t mention trails for motorized users because no agreement has been reached. But conservation groups say they are still discussing possible trails with snowmobilers and dirt bikers.

“I’m still positive about it, especially with where we are getting with the snowmachine community,” Mazzotta said. “I just don’t feel like we are that far off. Some of the key riding areas they are talking about, quite frankly we’re OK with. It is not something that is coming into direct conflict with any of the high-level ecological resources that make this monument worthy of being a national monument.”

A national monument designation preserves lands by adding protections from development, resource extraction and land swaps. Foes of creating a national monument in the Boulder-White Clouds cite diminished economic possibilities and restrictions on access.

Presidents have the sole authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to protect land under national-monument status.

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Information from: The Times-News, https://www.magicvalley.com

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