The Great Rift-

A large area of the Snake Rive Plain is covered by fresh basalt flows with numerous cinder cones, lava tubes, and small shield volcanoes.  The land is almost all owned by the U.S. government and has no developable resources.

A small, but spectacular part of the Great Rift is enclosed by Craters of the Moon National Monument. 

The United States Bureau of Land Management owns most of the land adjacent to the existing national monument, and well over a decade ago they recommended that Congress designate the roadless portions of the Craters of the Moon lava flow and the nearby Wapi flow as a unit of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Like every conservation proposal in Idaho for the last decade, the proposal has just sat there with no Idaho politicians showing interest since 1992.

Update: 4-18-2000

There was little media announcement that Babbitt would be a Craters of the Moon and so only one conservationist showed up and about 10 angry ranchers.  She said, "I stood up to them, and they shouted at me and followed me to the parking lot and by car for a way."

The ranchers apparently thought they were going to lose their grazing leases, but if one follows the history of national monuments these guys are sacred cows -- they always get grandfathered no matter how unsuitable the land for livestock grazing.

The woman said she feared for her life.


   . . . Ralph Maughan 

A friend (Jerry Jayne of Idaho Falls) emailed me a summary of attempts to protect this area.  Maybe the President of the United States will finally make it happen.

1968    The Great Rift is designated as a National Landmark by the Dept. of Interior; officially dedicated 1971.

1970    With U.S. Representative Orval Hansen's (Republican) help, the undeveloped part of Craters of the Moon National Monument designated wilderness by Congress.

1973    BLM begins its "Big Desert" Study.

1976    BLM proposes  "Primitive Area" for Craters of the Moon Lava Flow (outside Craters NM) and the Wapi Lava flow.

1976    FLPMA, = Federal Land Policy and Management Act, passes Congress -- the BLM's  organic act sought for years by conservationists.

1979    Pursuant to FLMPA, BLM begins a wilderness study of the 2 lava glows.  the Idaho Environmental Council and others support this. 

1979    FWOC winter 79-80 bulletin  has article on the Great Rift by Elvera and Cyril Slansky.

1980    Idaho Falls District BLM  sends a Great Rift Wilderness proposal to Interior Secretary James Watt.

1984    Interior Secretary Clark forwards the Wilderness proposal to President Reagan.

1985    President Reagan recommends the Wilderness proposal to  Congress.

1987-89  Idaho Governor John Evans, and Congressman Richard Stallings (both Democrats), Paul Fritz, and others work for an expanded Craters of the Moon National Park and Preserve.

2000    Interior Secretary Babbitt may propose that President Clinton designate a Great Rift National Monument.  This is encouraging news, assuming that the BLM will continue to recommend wilderness designation for the 2 lava flows. 

Aside from the failed Stallings National Park and Preserve proposal, I am aware of no support by the Idaho Delegation for protection of the Great Rift area outside Craters of the Moon NM.  In spite of 20 years of support for a Great Rift Wilderness by BLM and citizens, with little opposition, and no known extractable resource values, Congress has done nothing to act on this wilderness proposal.  During that time, any member of the Idaho Delegation so interested could have, to his credit, moved an easy wilderness bill.  I think that this inaction just bears out the fact that there has been NO wilderness champion in the Idaho Delegation for the entire 20 years since Senator Frank Church was there!

Jerry Jayne