Those classic wooden Forest Service signs with blocky, chiseled words announcing the boundaries of wilderness areas began to appear on the Cecil D. Andrus — White Clouds Wilderness earlier this week.
Although the name change was approved last year by Congressional decree, the National Forest Service lacked the funds and manpower to make and install the new signs. Craig Gehrke of the Wilderness Society and Andy Brunelle, a Gov. Andrus staffer from 1988 to 1995, collected $8,000 in donations for the signs over the summer with the help of the Idaho Conservation League.
Andrus, who died in August 2017, was a four-term Idaho governor and also served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior in President Jimmy Carter’s administration.
A shipment of about 20 signs arrived this September and volunteers, including staff from the Idaho Conservation League, installed signs in six different locations along the wilderness boundary Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
“A few of them were just off the road, but the longest one was 4 miles each way, so 8 miles round-trip in a few inches of snow carrying all the tools and the sign,” said Josh Johnson, Idaho Conservation League associate who helped carry the signs. “We hiked it all in and used a hand drill to drill holes in the sign in the spirit of putting up new wilderness signs using non-mechanized equipment.”
Johnson said the signs weighed about 15 pounds, and they also carried out the old signs which were returned to the Forest Service.
He said the Conservation League will organize volunteers to install the rest of the signs next summer. Johnson said some boundary markers are small, temporary signs that will be replaced with the larger, wooden signs and posts.
“We’ll organize another volunteer trip next summer to get folks out there experiencing the wilderness and learn about the history of why we’re putting up these signs,” Johnson said. “I think that part is pretty cool — why and how this wilderness is protected to begin with.”
The new name of the wilderness area was championed by U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and officially changed by Congress last year.
“The Cecil D. Andrus — White Clouds Wilderness is such a beautiful area in Central Idaho,” said Betsy Mizell, central Idaho director of the Idaho Conservation League. “It’s fitting that it bears Andrus’ name because he did so much to protect these and other public lands throughout Idaho and the U.S.”