BOISE — Idaho is a step closer to having its first national park.
The Senate passed a resolution Monday that will express to Congress the Legislature’s support for redesignating Craters of the Moon National Monument as a national park. Congress would have to act in order for anything to happen, but staff for all four members of Idaho’s delegation have been watching the issue closely.
Local support, expressed in county commission resolutions, advisory votes and local lobbying, is widespread.
“We’ve got some communities that are just struggling over there,” said Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, who is sponsoring the memorial.
Passage comes over opposition by the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, which has been the effort’s sole opponent. The group has said it worries redesignation will interfere with grazing and agricultural goods hauling in the area, and that even if the federal government agrees to preserve such uses, it doesn’t trust the feds’ word.
But Siddoway urged senators to support the resolution, despite the fact that the Farm Bureau is “throwing hand grenades everywhere.” He noted that the memorial conditions support for a national park on preserving such uses.
“This protects the existing uses in that preserve (that surrounds the national monument,)” he said. “It protects the grazing.”
And locals hope that turning Craters into a national park will put the site on more tourist maps, bringing business opportunities to rural counties were economic opportunities are slim.
Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said if the proponents of a national park had convinced Siddoway — a conservative sheep rancher from near Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks who isn’t known for his love of federal rules — then it has to be a good idea.
“If I had to pick, of all the senators I’ve ever served with on this floor, in all the years that I have been here, one guy who I would have bet … would ever bring a memorial asking the federal government to make a national park in this state, (Siddoway) is the last person,” Davis said.
The resolution passed 20-13. The memorial next heads to the House, where it could be taken up as soon as this week.
Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 542-6751.