Archive for June, 2009

Jun 30 2009

Well, it’s a plan

Published by under Washington

ferries

The good news is that someone is actually wrestling down the needs of the long-troubled Washington ferry system, including the purchase of five new boats in the next five years. The Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division has just released a plan that looks as if it may make sense for the ferry system.

That’s the good news.

The bad news: “The plan identifies a net funding gap of $3.3 billion over the next 22 years with most of that deficit in the capital program. WSF will continue to work with the Legislature to identify a sustainable funding source for the ferry system.”

So they need another $3.3 billion to make it work. At least they have some time . . .

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Jun 30 2009

The fireworks ban

Published by under Washington

crackers

Most places have limitations of some sort on 4th of July fireworks, but outright bans are relatively uncommon. Spokane, and communities around it, have had such a ban for 17 years.

From a city release: “Fireworks-related fires in the City of Spokane dropped from 1,044 in the 10 years prior to the ban to just 46 in the 10 years after the ban. In a similar manner, fireworks-caused injuries dropped from 290 to 37. In 2008, no injuries from fireworks were reported in the City of Spokane; there were five small grass fires. Clearly, most people are honoring the ban. Violations of the ban can be reported to Crime Check at 456-2233.”

And: “The Colville Tribe lost over $15 million in timber on July 4, 2003, after someone lit a bottle rocket from a boat on Lake Roosevelt. In 2006, about $6 million in damage to schools in Washington State was caused by fireworks.”

Odds are, most northwesterners still are unlikely to want to go there. But food for some thought anyway.

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Jun 29 2009

And they’re done, for now

Published by under Oregon

since die

Representative Arnie Roblan at one of the last debates/Oregon Channel

Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt had remarked that he hoped to adjourn for the year by sundown today. He missed that mark, but by less than an hour – a close bit of timing, indicative of the kind of tight operation the Oregon Legislature (moreso in the House, but largely too in the Senate) has had this year.

There are a number of familiar complaints from the not distant past you can’t make about this session. You can’t say it was unproductive; this may have been the most productive session in a generation (probably moreso than 2007, which also delivered a lot of substance). You can’t say it was an especially bitter session; there were occasional scrapes, but the House particularly seemed (at least so far as we could tell) to run without excess conflict. Did it address the issues before the state? It clearly did.

The big unanswered point is what Oregonians will make of all that productivity. Were the answers – most notably on taxes, but maybe on some other subjects as well – acceptable? Did the controlling Democrats, in other words, overreach?

The initial guess here is, probably not; the tax measures and a lot of the most sensitive legislation generally seemed pretty carefully trimmed and crafted to survive attack. But it’s a close call. Ballot issues are in the wind, and they may provide a good indicator of what the 2010 voters have to say about the makeup of the next legislature. And other offices too.

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Jun 29 2009

Early OR guv thoughts . . .

Published by under Oregon

A fun thread about Oregon gubernatorial prospects for 2010 at Blue Oregon; a longish list of prospects followed by some (sometimes cutting) reviews.

Don’t miss the comments by Jack Roberts, a Republican who gives his nickel’s worth along with the Democratic regulars.

Bottom line after review: The odds seem to favor a wide-open situation, though mainly if you think that the ultimately candidate sheet won’t include the names of DeFazio, Kitzhaber or Walden (which is probably where the weight of guessing would go).

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Jun 29 2009

Gov to president?

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

Our current president is a former U.S. senator, but historically that’s an anomaly: In recent decades, and even no so recent, a lot of them have come from the ranks of governors. (Bush II, Clinton, Reagan, Carter . . .)

So Ken Rudin of National Public Radio decided, just as an exercise, to rank the nation’s current Republican governors – Republicans since Democrats probably have their next party nomination taken care of – in terms of probability of ever (either in 2012 or later) becoming president. His top-ranked was Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (our guess, until the last moment, for GOP VP last time), and second is Utah Governor (though not for long) Jon Huntsman. Alaska’s Sarah Palin was 7th.

In the Northwest? Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter came in 15th out of 22. Though considering that Rudin still has South Carolina’s Mark Sanford at number 9, Otter certainly should rise at least one spot.

This list was shortly followed with another one (developed by other bloggers) for Democratic governors, which was led by Brian Schweitzer of Montana. Washington’s Chris Gregoire was No. 9. Oregon’s Ted Kulongoski did less well, ranking at 26 (out of 28 total).

Absolutely nothing scientific about any of it.

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Jun 29 2009

Alternatives opening

Published by under Oregon

devlin

Richard Devlin

It was supposed to be dead. Although a lot of the individual members of the Oregon Legislature were on board, a measure enabling easier and more widespread activities by minor political parties, including explicitly approved cross-nomination, seemed dead in the water. (The Oregon Education Association was apparently one of the key reasons for that.)

Just now, however, Senate Bill 326 passed the Senate – concurring with House amendments – and from a minor-party point of view, it’s a big deal. A quick rundown from the Oregon Independent Party (via a release):

SB 326 consists of two parts:

1) It repeals HB 2614 (2005), a law that made it much more difficult for non-affiliated candidates to obtain sufficient signatures to be nominated for public office.

2) It now includes the provisions of what used to be HB 2414 (prior to its recent gutting), which allows a candidate who is nominated by more than one party to list up to 3 such party names on the ballot next to her name. More information on HB 2414 is available at http://indparty.com/node/174.

Despite strong bi-partisan support, the passage of the provisions contained in this bill have been in doubt for much of the latter part of the legislative session. For details see: http://wweek.com/editorial/3531/12669/

SB 326 (including the terms of HB 2414) passed last week in the Oregon House on a vote of 42-17. The provisions of this bill are among the top legislative priorities of the Independent Party of Oregon.

Senator Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, said the finished bill had flaws, but he would push for correction in those in next year’s session (since this year’s is fast approaching completion). The few senators who voted against (all Democrats) said they did so out of concern for the flaws, but all said they’d be at work on those. Meantime, the small partiers should have an existing law on books – not a bad place from which to defend unflawed provisions.

Many are the paths to passage.

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Jun 28 2009

Seattle v Tacoma, another round

Published by under Washington

tacoma

Central Tacoma/Stapilus

Some battles never end. Those between the Emerald City and the City of Destiny, for example. In modern-day style . . .

The Port of Tacoma tries to entice a key shipper away from the Port of Seattle.

The city of Seattle tries to lure away one of Tacoma’s most prestigious businesses.

A solid rundown on the current state of the matter turns up in today’s column by Tacoma News-Tribune‘s Peter Callaghan. Search for Seattle rebuttal (though Callaghan’s take was pretty neutral) will get underway shortly . . .

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Jun 28 2009

Where the ed jobs are

Published by under Idaho

How much of all that public school money is actually making it to the classroom?

That’s a question that ought to be asked a lot more. There’s some useful information toward answering it in a new post by Wayne Hoffman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation:

“Records from the State Department of Education indicate while Idaho’s student population has grown about 16 percent in the last 15 years, the ranks of school employees have grown disproportionately. Teaching staff grew by 26 percent, but school bureaucracies fared better: District administrations grew by 33 percent, while school building administration grew by 27 percent. But the big growth market is in school classified staff – computer techs, secretarial staff, bus drivers, custodians and similar support professions – which has grown 55 percent since 1994.”

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Jun 28 2009

The less you make, the more you pay

Published by under Idaho

It’s expensive to be poor, especially when it comes to health care costs. Hold a good, solid, full-time, upper-income job with good health care benefits, and such things as preventive care and earlier physician intervention are practical things. Hold the other kind of job, part-time with lower pay and benefits, and most likely you’ll be stuck putting off health care until time has come for the emergency room – which is just about the most expensive kind of health care around.

You can see why some of this develops (and it is an increasingly common approach in both private and government organizations), and there is some reason behind at least some of it. Give full benefits to a part-time employee who at least in theory might be able to work part-time somewhere else too, and – in the zero-sum game that is personnel budgeting – you’re limiting what you can provide a full-timer. Except, of course, that in this economic environment, what’s really happening is that the part-timers are being shut out of health insurance and, until emergency room time, health care altogether.

Hence the controversy in Idaho, outlined in an Idaho Statesman story today, about a change in state personnel policy requiring, in essence, those state employees who earn the least will have to pay the most for health insurance and related benefits, likely soon kicking them out of the system.

The story clarifies some of this in the case of state employee Zack Gonzales:

Gonzales works 20 hours to 40 hours a week at the Idaho State Emergency Medical Service Communications Center in Meridian.

He pays about $30 a month for health insurance. That’s what all qualifying state workers insuring only themselves – not family members – now contribute for the health-plan option Gonzales has, whether they’re full-time or part-time. But beginning this fall, his share of the premium will rise to $302.50, a 900 percent increase, or most of one of the two paychecks he gets from the state every month.

Gonzales and his companion rely on Gonzales’ check for the mortgage on their home. So Gonzales, 23, will choose the mortgage over health insurance. That means medicine he pays only a few dollars for now will cost him $200 a month.

We sent an inquiry about this policy shift to the governor’s office a couple of weeks back. Never got a reply.

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Jun 27 2009

A small town day

Published by under Oregon

parade

Parading in Carlton/Stapilus

As residents of a bona fide small town (Carlton, Oregon, population still well shy of 2,000), we’ve never quite figured out those qualities that are supposed to distinguish the authentics of the small town from the phonies of the larger. People are people. Most of the people here, as in most small towns, have in any event close ties (jobs, families, other connections) to larger communities anyway.

But you don’t usually see in larger communities the kind of small town events – or at least, the all-community feel of them – that sometimes you get in places like this. Today was the peak of the annual Carlton Fun Days, the main events of which were a sort of festival in the larger city park, and before that a parade. Which, between those who marched (and anyone who wanted to, could) and those who watched on the sidewalks, seemed to bring in most of the town’s inhabitants. A real civic get together.

In between was this: A crowd shot of the people (or at least a large fraction) of Carlton, all in one group, outdoors downtown. Couldn’t do that in Seattle.

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Jun 26 2009

Recording who gets what

Published by under Oregon

Not all the decisions in the effort to do something useful about health care are necessarily easy. But some of them – a considerable number – simply seem to be no-brainers, proposals whose downside is awfully hard to find.

Consider Oregon House Bill 2376, passed today by the House, which “requires manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and other medical products to report to the Department of Justice gifts, fees, payments subsidies or other economic benefits the manufacturer provides to purchasers, providers or dispensers of the manufacturer’s drugs in the state. The bill also requires the Department of Justice to establish a readily searchable database and website for the public to search the database.”

In other words, it says that if your hospital or physician is being given drug samples or other goodies by pharmaceutical companies, you should be able to know that . . . so you can determine if, for example, there’s some relationship between a company’s sales efforts and the drugs you’re prescribed.

The House Democrats said in a release that “citizens today are acutely aware of the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to market prescription drugs directly to the consumer. However, most people are not aware that pharmaceutical companies spend billions more dollars contracting with, and marketing to, doctors who, in addition to prescribing drugs, also advocate for their use at medical conferences and in medical journals.”

There are some legitimate questions of details (at what monetary amount do you have to report?) but the point seems painfully obvious.

There was House floor debate against. (It passed 34-25, not a huge margin.) As the Oregonian reported:

“We’re going to drive jobs out of the state of Oregon,” said Rep. Ron Maurer, R-Grants Pass.

Rep. Jim Thompson, R-Dallas, said the bill would have a “chilling effect on our ability to attract research dollars to Oregon.”

The bill, of course, has nothing to do with research. And jobs lost are those of drug pushers who are making ever more expensive and distorted our health care, then the problem doesn’t seem significant.

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Jun 25 2009

ID: Polling Otter and Minnick

Published by under Idaho

Idaho’s Greg Smith Associates polling is also actively pulling up numbers for leading political figures and – considering how static and one-sided things often are in Idaho – some of them ought to be of broader interest.

The strongest numbers among the major figures belong to 2nd District Representative Mike Simpson – his favorable/unfavorable is a very strong 56/8, or +48; as a benchmark, Simpson (now in his sixth term) typically wins general elections with two-thirds of the vote or a little higher. Senator Mike Crapo (59/17, or +42) is close to that, and freshman Senator Jim Risch (49/19, or +30) isn’t far off.

That’s all about what you expect; what’s been less clear is what sort of numbers the new Democrat in the delegation, 1st District Representative Walt Minnick, would draw. Turns out that his numbers (47/20, or +27) are closely comparable to those of Risch, the other new member in the delegation. Those are sound, strong numbers for a Democrat; they suggest Minnick is well-positioned at least for now. There is one distinction: Minnick has a higher number of people saying they have “no opinion,” meaning that he (and his opposition) has more room to sketch in a narrative about him between here in November 2010.

The other numbers of interest concern Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, whose favorable/unfavorable now sits at 47/35 (+12), not terribly strong, and a clear decline from previous polling. Smith’s comment on that: “On one hand, Otter certainly took some popularity hits due to the Legislative session. His insistence on desiring to raise gas/transportation-related taxes for road improvements, along with a negatively perceived Legislative session these tax stands contributed to, certainly caused some perceptual damage to Otter. But, recognize that these perceptions were measured only about a month after the Legislature ended – in other words, while memories are still fresh and haven’t had the time to ‘mellow’. Potential Otter opponents who smell electoral blood would be wise to consider this, and ask themselves who specifically is ‘out there’ sufficiently perceived positively, ably, and credibly enough to be elected Governor in 2010.”

Still, sometimes these early results help make their own realities, as prospective campaigns come together, or fail to.

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Jun 25 2009

OR: Early-early gov polling

Published by under Oregon

Daily Kos/Research 2000 has out a fairly thorough set of polling on the 2010 Oregon governor’s race, which yet remains far from filling in clear contours. Just two substantial contenders – Democratic former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and Republican businessman Allen Alley – are declared at this point, but there’s little sense that the field on either side is near closed. Alley, for some reason, doesn’t even figure in the polling, maybe because his chances of winning the Republican nomination are not great.

That still leaves the pollsters in the position of polling mostly possibilities rather than actual candidates, which could have some results skewed. Still, there plenty here of interest.

The prospects polled were, on the Democratic side, Bradbury, former Governor John Kitzhaber, Representative Peter DeFazio, and 2008 Senate candidate Steve Novick; and on the Republican side, former Senator Gordon Smith (who may have taken himself out of contention), Representative Greg Walden (who seems likely to have done likewise) and state Senator Jason Atkinson, the one person polled who ran for governor in 2006. (Most frequent guesses seem to run against a DeFazio candidacy too, though that’s more speculative.) President Barack Obama also was polled for favorability.

A few observations.

bullet Obama seems to be far more popular (favorable/unfavorable 62-31, or +31) than any of the Oregonians, and practically everyone had an opinion (just 7% didn’t). The Oregon name who really stuck out in terms of everyone having an opinion was Smith, whose “no opinion” was just 13%; but that’s of no help, since his favorable/unfavorable gap is -9, into unpopular territory, no a good place from which to start a campaign. The two candidates with best standing were Kitzhaber at +20 and DeFazio at +25; the difference probably is more or less erased by Kitzhaber’s larger name familiarity around the state (28% had no opinion of him). Bradbury and Novick were in net positive territory, but the more than half of Oregonians polled had no opinion of them, so they would be virtually building from scratch in campaigning terms. Atkinson’s numbers (+10) were in the Bradbury/Novick range, and Walden’s a little better than that (+11) but a favorable still only at 36%.

bullet In head to heads, Kitzhaber and DeFazio were polling at winning not massively but solidly over all three Republicans. Bradbury was seen as winning but within the margin of error in matchups against Smith or Walden but substantially ahead of Atkinson. Novick was polled as losing to all three Republicans.

Of course, all of this is pre-campaign, and these numbers can and do change once campaigns commence. The high no-opinion factor also matters. Even two-term Governor Kitzhaber (who left office back at the end of 2002) will still have some re-introduction to do, to newcomers and some others. But as this begins, the strongest opening hands likely would be those of Kitzhaber and DeFazio; the next question is whether either of them run.

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Jun 24 2009

Seattle v. Vancouver (BC)

Published by under Washington

A little compare & contrast never hurts when figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Seattle and Vancouver have a light rivalry of a sorts – both have similar ideas about what constitutes civic virtue – that can make such a thing useful.

Knute Berger at Crosscut has a report on a meeting that put one up against the other, the spokesmen being Seattle council member Peter Steinbrueck and Vancouver council member Gordon Price – each speaking up for the other city. Some of the points of praise were interesting (and notably, the points of praise for Bellevue, which tends to get more than its due share of knocks from the other side of the water).

It’s all worthwhile. Here’s a slice for flavor:

Price praised Seattle as a “great American city,” which made folks in the audience laugh, apparently thinking the word “American” was a qualifier, as “great for an American city.” But Price, wearing an American flag tie, quickly corrected the impression. Vancouver, he said, has not nearly had the impact on Canada that Seattle has had on America, or Canada for that matter. Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, Costco: these are Seattle originals that have been widely influential in a way Vancouver is not and never has been.

On the other hand, Steinbrueck rates Vancouver much higher on the livability scale, in part because the city’s more consistent and integrated planning has resulted in a denser, more people-oriented city that is more family friendly than Seattle and has a larger slice of its middle class living in the core. In short, for all of Seattle’s protectiveness on livability, Vancouver is doing a better job.

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Jun 23 2009

Upstream: Adjudicating the Snake River

Published by under books,Idaho

Upstream
ORDER IT HERE
and now on Amazon.com

The Snake River Basin Adjudication is one of the largest water adjudications the United States has ever seen, and it may be the most successful. Here is how it happened, drawn from the pages of the SRBA Digest, which for 16 years has been tracking the details of the massive case – the advances, the slips, false starts and unexpected leaps. The Digest is the key independent source for anyone watching the SRBA.

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Next »

 


A truly down-home ad for Oregon Senator Merkley.

 

Back in Print! Frank Church was one of the leading figures in Idaho history, and one of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From wilderness to Vietnam to investigating the CIA, Church led on a host of difficult issues. This, the one serious biography of Church originally published in 1994, is back in print by Ridenbaugh Press.
Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. $24.95.
See the FIGHTING THE ODDS page.


 
JOURNEY WEST

by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)

 

 

NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

How many copies?

 
THE OREGON POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
THE IDAHO POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
without compromise
WITHOUT COMPROMISE is the story of the Idaho State Police, from barely-functioning motor vehicles and hardly-there roads to computer and biotechnology. Kelly Kast has spent years researching the history and interviewing scores of current and former state police, and has emerged with a detailed and engrossing story of Idaho.
WITHOUT COMPROMISE page.

 

Diamondfield
How many copies?
The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.
 

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
 
Idaho 100 NOW IN KINDLE
 
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.
 

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.


 

    Top-Story-graphic-300x200_topstory8
    Monday mornings on KLIX-AM

    watergates

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Randy Stapilus

    Water rights and water wars: They’re not just a western movie any more. The Water Gates reviews water supplies, uses and rights to use water in all 50 states.242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    intermediary

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Lin Tull Cannell

    At a time when Americans were only exploring what are now western states, William Craig tried to broker peace between native Nez Perces and newcomers from the East. 15 years in the making, this is one of the most dramatic stories of early Northwest history. 242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    Upstream

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    The Snake River Basin Adjudication is one of the largest water adjudications the United States has ever seen, and it may be the most successful. Here's how it happened, from the pages of the SRBA Digest, for 16 years the independent source.

    Paradox Politics

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    After 21 years, a 2nd edition. If you're interested in Idaho politics and never read the original, now's the time. If you've read the original, here's view from now.


    Governing Idaho:
    Politics, People and Power

    by James Weatherby
    and Randy Stapilus
    Caxton Press
    order here

    Outlaw Tales
    of Idaho

    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    It Happened in Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    Camping Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here