There is an emerging split among the normally unified resource industries of Idaho that so far has escaped wide public notice. It is, however, a matter that could have profound implications for those Idahoans who make a living off of natural resource conversion whether it is turning trees into lumber, graze for cattle into steaks, wheat into bread, or extracted minerals into metals.
It is a fight beween Idaho’s ranchers and farmers on one side, and on the other side are Idaho’s loggers, timber industry and contract haulers. The issue is who the Trump Administration should select for the critical deputy undersecretary position within the Department of Agriculture that oversees the Forest Service.
Now that former Georgia Governor “Sonny” Perdue has been confirmed as the department Secretary the battle is intensifying. Idaho’s ranchers and farmers are supporting one of their own, Melba rancher Layne Bangerter, 55, who worked for 13 years as the natural resource advisor to Idaho’s senior Senator, Mike Crapo. He played a key role for the senator in the negotiations that led to a successful resolution of the complex debate over preservation of the Owyhee Canyonlands.
Of more relevance today is Bangerter’s role as the chair of the Idaho Committee to elect Donald Trump president. In the course of the campaign, Bangerter reportedly hit it off well with Donald Trump, Jr., and also traveled with then vice presidential candidate, Michael Pence. Furthermore, Bangerter is a graduae of BYU and a bishop in the LDS Church..
An interesting aside is Bangerter years ago worked as a coyote trapper on Lt. Governor Brad Little’s ranch. Little is thus supporting an old friend, though he says either group’s candidate could do the job. To him the more important decision is how will decisions get made? Will the old concentrate in the Council on Environmental Quality’s hands model be taken up or will there be a true devolvement of authority to the cabinet and sub-agency level?
Those associated with Idaho’s timber industry are strongly backing Erica Rhoad, the House Resources staff director for the Subcommittee on Federal lands. Rhoad has a pedigree that would normally make her a lead pipe cinch to get the position. She started lining up support and solidifying her base within a few days after the election. Among her credentials are time spent working as the Federal Liaison for the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Affairs, service on the staff of former California Congressman Richard Pombo, and director of policy for the American Forestry Association.
Perhaps her greatest asset, according to Bob Boeh, vice president of external affairs for the Idaho Forest Group, is her knowledge of the issues. Boeh says “we have nothing against Layne, we just feel there are so many major issues vital to the industry’s future coming so rapidly down the pike that there’s not sufficient time for Layne to get up to speed. Erica knows the issues and will hit the ground running.”
Boeh also reported that his company had signed a letter endorsed by 32 other industry related organizations and sportsman groups suppporting Rhoad’s appointment. The letter will go to Secretary Perdue as well as the Idaho congressional delegation.
Needless to say, Idaho’s ranchers and farmers, despite the fact that Rhoad grew up on a Colorado ranch and went to Colorado State, are putting together a letter of their endorsing organizations to be sent to Secretary Perdue and the Idaho congressional delegation. Senators Crapo and Risch are thought to be supporting Bangerter. First District Congressman Raul Labrador did not return phone calls to his office.
Second District Congressman Mike Simpson is backing Rhoad inasmuch as she once worked for him when with the Interior Appropriations subcommittee which Simpson chairs.
Shawn Keough, the executive director of the Idaho Logging Contractor’s Association, says her organization is officially neutral though she did acknowledge their national group, the American Logging Contractors Association, is one of the 33 signees to the letter Boeh referenced.
Former Larry Craig staffer Mark Rey, who held the post for eight years is strongly supporting Rhoad. He points out that she is exceptionally qualified because of her unique undertanding of the legislative process and the agency, how to make policy work with a large field organization, and her knowledge of the budget process by virture of her work on both the appropriations subcommittee and the authorizing subcommittee.
Despite these superb credemtials there is really only one constituent and literally he trumps all others----Donald Trump, Jr. He has remained close and if he wants Bangerter in that post, Bangerter will get the nod.