Grantee Spotlight: A Win for Wilderness in Idaho

On August 7, 2015, President Obama signed the Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness bill into law.
Rick Johnson, Executive Director of Idaho Conservation League, a long time Campion Foundation grantee and Campion Advocacy Fund campaign partner, was in the Oval Office for the official signing ceremony, and has shared the guest blog, below, about the overall experience.  We are proud to support the hard work of so many that went into this historic achievement. Congratulations!

In August I had the remarkable experience of having the President of the United States open the door to invite us in. As we entered the Oval Office a decades-long effort to create wilderness in the Boulder and White Cloud Mountains reached closure as the bill was signed.

Wilderness is America’s gold standard for land protection, but is incredibly hard to achieve, especially now, in one of the most polarized periods of American political history. To be honest, it’s been so hard to get for Idaho’s Boulder-White Clouds there were days I questioned if it was still possible. But using every tool we could find, we kept at it.

The path to passage took decades to travel, over generations, but the final push to the summit was stunningly fast. And like any truly hairy final ascent, everything had to go perfectly. There is a long story to tell I won’t get into here. It involves conservation heroes, and regular folks who never gave up. It’s all inspired by an incredible place.

In any epic journey, partners matter. We depend on each other. While the entire Boulder-White Clouds story is long and torturous, the final push was very short. It was also very steep. The bill was passed in six months. From the first congressional hearing to the president’s desk was only two and a half months. And in the end the bill passed out of both House and Senate committees unanimously, and then passed out of both the US House and US Senate without a single objection.

Unanimous votes in this US Congress are nothing short of miraculous. Making this happen meant there were innumerable personal meetings where key relationships were leveraged to great effect. Some of these are part of the public record. Others may never be.

The Campion Advocacy Fund was created to provide in a legislative context what only sophisticated advocacy can achieve. The Campion Foundation has long supported ICL’s work to build the campaign. But the Campion Advocacy Fund did something more, geared towards closing the deal, ensuring that key meetings, key calls, and the value of long-developed relationships could be fully leveraged, when time was tight, and storm clouds could suddenly end it all.

After passage, Tom Campion and I traded messages. In summary, they could be distilled as “Never give up.” We never did.

— Rick Johnson, Executive Director, Idaho Conservation League

 

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