THE WHITE CLOUD PEAKS: WILDERNESS RECREATION OR MEW-MILL OPERATIONS?
In chapters 5 and 6 we reviewed the circumstances concerning one of the most outstanding wild and scenic rivers to be found anywhere on the North American continent. In addition to its remarkable setting, the Snake River in the Hells Canyon reach has some of the best hydroelectric power sites remaining in the coterminous United States. The stakes in the conflict between developmental and preservation uses, accordingly, are very large and have received intensive economic analysis by official parties. This chapter addresses a problem in wild and scenic land allocation that, while equally controversial, perhaps is not quite as well known, and for which no official benefit--cost analysis has been done. This case deals with the White Cloud Peaks Mountains in Idaho where prospective mining operations would be incompatible with retaining the area in its natural condition. The question then concerns the most efficient uses to which the area's resources may be allocated, taking explicit account of the mutual exclusiveness of some of the possible competing uses.
Since an official benefit--cost study has not been undertaken for the White Cloud Peaks, the analysis presented here does not have the kind of data typically available in federal, or federally regulated, water resource development benefit--cost studies. What we have done is use data which were made available through the broader Forest Service land-use planning basic studies, along with reconnaissance-grade estimates provided by the Forest Service in connection with recreation-related facilities, in order to permit results good to a first approximation. The objective was to organize what data were readily at hand or could be obtained in limited time to provide some guidance on the relative value of the commodity and amenity resources available from the area. The analysis is partial, as well as good only to a first approximation because the extractive activities incompatible with recreation were compared with only low-density recreation.