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Promises to keep

carlson CHRIS


He’s 83 years young, still walks several miles twice a day, has bounced back from a lung cancer surgery earlier this year with no need for follow up radiation or chemotherapy, still loves to bird hunt and fly fish, and almost 20 years after leaving public office remains the most recognized, admired and respected bald headed politician in Idaho.

Always known for his candor and honesty, if anything with age he has become more feisty and outspoken. This past week he received The Frank and Bethine Church Public Service Award in honor of a lifetime of work on behalf of protecting the “crown jewels” of Idaho’s outdoors – the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, the Selway/Bitterroot Wilderness, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, the Owyhee Canyon Lands, and the Birds of Prey.

He reminded his audience in his brief acceptence remarks he has always striven for balance, that having a resource based economy could be and should be compatible with protecting the state’s environmental assets. He repeated his long-time mantra – “first you have to make a living but then you have to have a living that’s worthwhile.”

He also served notice that there is one last charge on his steed he is going to make before riding off into the sunset: the Boulder/White Clouds will receive the recognition it merits by President Barack Obama invoking his authority under the Antiquities Act to declare the area a National Monument.

Governor Andrus made his statement knowing full well that earlier in the day his good friend, second district Congressman Mike Simpson, who led a ten-year long effort to work out an acceptable piece of legislation only to be betrayed by then freshman Senator Jim Risch, had announced that he’d asked the Administration to give him eight months to achieve passage in the next Congress of a new version of his previous legislation.

The governor has no doubt that Simpson can get his new bill through the House, but barring another complete reversal by Senator Risch, he sees no way in which Simpson can overcome the opposition of both Senator Risch and Governor Otter unless they both suffer defeat in the upcoming election. In his estimation Otter appears vulnerable but as much as he would like to see Nels Mitchell take out Jim Risch he recognizes that is a much longer shot.

Andrus knows Simpson as a ranking member of the House Resources committee and the chair of the Interior/EPA Appropriations subcommittee, has some powerful tools or leaverage he can bring to bear in dealing with the White House and Interior Secretary Sally Jewel, but the old war horse also has chits he can call in and allies to bring to the fray not the least of which is the Idaho Conservation League.

Skillfully led by Rick Johnson, the ICL has also worked with Rep. Simpson and his staff to achieve a bill with many compromises that would be acceptable to all. When newly elected Senator Risch, who had previously endorsed Simpson’s efforts reversed field because of some “liberal additions” to the bill, none of which he could cite because therre weren’t any, the ICL recognized that Andrus was correct: the only way one might ever have legislation would be to follow the precedent he set in Alaska by designating the lands in need of protection national monuments. Then the public might see the Simpson legislation passed by both the Senate and House.

While it is easy to see that Congressman Simpson has some leaverage over the White House, it is hard to see where he has any leaverage over Senator Risch. At this point in time Andrus sees no way that Simpson can turn either Risch or Otter around and barring Simpson pulling a rabbit from the hat Andrus, the ICL and their allies will continue to argue that the only path forward is the President utilizing the Antiquities Act.

While Interior secretary Jewel is loathe to have the Administration dictating a national monument, she recognizes the end game will include the President taking action and word is the department has quietly been preparing all the necessary paperwork.

What most complicates Simpson’s renewed efforts is the simple fact Andrus does not trust Jim Risch as far as he can throw him. Where there is no trust, there will be no deal avoiding monument status.

If one is a betting person they ought to put their money on the old war horse and his last charge. It’s a promise he has made to himself and to the people of Idaho and it is one he will keep. There may be miles to go before he sleeps, but the Boulder/White Clouds will be protected. Bet on it.

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