"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)


There’s a new player on the Idaho political scene that warrants careful monitoring and serious scrutiny. They call themselves the “American Redoubt” movement but they bear an uncanny resemblance to the survivalists and posse comitatus types that operated in Idaho in the ‘80s.

The agendas are remarkably similar: the primacy of the U.S. Constitution, support for so-called “open carry” of firearms; repeal of the 17th amendment (direct election of U.S. Senators by a state’s legislature); adamant opposition to immigrants; abolishing agencies like EPA; supremacy of a county sheriff as the highest figure in the criminal justice system, etc.

The differences between then and now are revealing.Then, they did not register or vote. They weren’t active in local or state politics; now, they have become the shock troops for the Tea Party and openly support certain candidates.

In the Republicans’ “closed primary” they can exercise tremendous influence over their fellow citizens. Several of their sympathizers, such as Rep. Heather Scott of Blanchard, have been elected to the Legislature and have started referencing the writings of their spiritual founder, James Rawles.

(Scott, by the way, has truly become an embarrassment to Idaho. She unfurled and embraced the Confederate “Stars and Bars” at one rally just as police in South Carolina were finally getting a handle on things. If I’d been the U.S. attorney for Idaho, I would have cited her for trying to incite a riot. Then, Scott traveled to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge to embrace the cause of folks there engaging in sedition. The people of Harney County, Oregon, most of them ranchers who abide by the terms of their grazing leases, don’t want her or the SS-like storm troops hanging around. Scott tries to justify the unjustifiable.)

The forefathers of the American Redoubters used to embrace racism. Now, Rawles says racism ignores reason.

They say they welcome all, and that there’s no discrimination against minorities, but that’s easy to say when you have few minorities.

Then, the Redoubt types banded “together” for protection wherever they were. Now, Rawles touts political migration to smaller western states like Idaho, Montana and Wyoming where he believes they can live relatively unbothered by the federal government. This in fact is the underlying concept and the key to understanding American Redoubt.

Despite the outcome of America’s great and bloody Civil War, these types still adhere to the concepts of a state’s right to secede from the Union or nullify congressional laws they dislike. The Supreme Court has firmly rejected both.

They still don’t understand what Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in his majority ruling and precedent setting 5 to 4 Supreme Court opinion, District of Columbia vs. Heller, ruled. Scalia wrote there was a qualified right for an individual to carry a weapon, whether concealed or not apart from being a member of a militia.

Scalia clearly said there is NOT an absolute right. He went on to write that the state in the name of public safety has the right to close off public spaces like schools and courts to the carrying of any weapon, whether concealed or otherwise. One can conclude he would not support Rep. Scott and American Redoubt’s so-called “constitutional carry” legislation.

The Redoubters say they love their country, but fear their government that protects their right to dissent, their right to free speech, their right to vote and their right to own side arms, rifles and shot guns.

However, they don’t believe in your right to an ownership interest in the nation’s public lands, its wonderful national parks, its wildlife refuges, its national forests and wilderness areas. No, beause they live adjacent to these lands, whether dedicated to multiple use or a prominent single use, they think these lands are theirs, and that they own them.

Keep your eye on these American Redoubters and their Tea Party puppets – they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Caveat Emptor.

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Idaho’s junior senator, James Risch, finally appears to be stepping up to fulfilling the responsibilities of the high office he holds. Even Republicans expressed surprise and disappointment when a couple winters back Risch told the Idaho Statesman what an easy job being a senator was compared to being a governor.

Whether intentional or not, Risch came across as one coasting along enjoying the perks of the office (such as tickets to the Kennedy Center) and not doing much work because it wouldn’t do any good given how partisan and polarized the environment within the Beltway is.

One suspects the senator soon became bored and started sinking his teeth into the job and his committee assignments. Like most of the few professed Democrats in Idaho, I’m hardly a fan of Risch. That doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge his political skills, intelligence, charm when he wants to display it, and sheer energy.

I first met Risch in 1975 when he was in his first term as a state senator. A mutual friend, then State Senator Kerm Kiebert, a Democrat from Bonner County, had us both, along with our wives, out to dinner. It was clear Risch was an ambitious state senator. Even more clear was his better half, Vicki, was a true co-partner.

Despite his reputation for partisanship, Risch and Kiebert remain good friends to this day. Risch served in the State Senate for 20 years and quickly rose to leadership, serving at different times as majority leader and president pro tempore. Even some Republican colleagues felt power went to his head and he developed a reputation as somewhat of a bully. One had to think twice before crossing him.

There were few tears shed when he was upset in a re-election bid in 1988 by Mike Burkett. Risch is resilient though. During the hiatus in his political career he won a major law suit for which he was handsomely rewarded and he and Vicki worked hard at operating their successful ranch and several businesses they own.

Today, they are one of the wealthier couples in the Senate but one should not begrudge them their wealth. They earned it, they did not inherit it. It would have been nice when Risch was governor if he had acknowledged up front his gambit of switching a decrease in property taxes for a 1 percent increase in the sales tax was going to modestly benefit him (about $5,000), but no law required disclosure.

Risch is a true survivor and while his politics are far too conservative, he reflects what a majority of Idaho voters want.

In recent weeks two things indicate he is no longer coasting, if he ever was. Last week, for the umpteenth time CNN’s veteran political analyst, Wolf Blitzer, interviewed Risch on Iran. Risch sits on the Foreign Relations committee and the Intelligence committee.

Risch was measured in what he said. Twice he side-stepped when Blitzer tried to bait him into harshly criticizing President Obama’s handling of Iranian issues. Blitzer was trying to get Risch to speculate on why the Iranians had released the ten American sailors they were holding.

Risch pointed out the obvious: the nuclear agreement was about to become effective and Iran could use the $100 billion that was due them with the lifting of sanctions and taking down a couple notches their nuclear program. One also suspects Risch had been briefed on the imminent “prisoner swap.” Whatever, he handled it adroitly.

Risch should also be given kudos for his thoughtful approach to possible legislation on the proposed land swap between Western Pacific Timber and the Forest Service in the upper Lochsa. Consolidating the checkerboard sections and privately managing them makes sense to many, but a sizable number in Idaho county believes favorite recreation areas will then be closed to public use.

Despite promises by the company to place it all in conservation easements that would assure public access many don’t trust the company. Just before Thanskgiving Risch held a well attended meeting in Grangeville where he quietly listened to all sides.

Folks should recall that Risch’s first love is forestry. Its what brought him to Idaho originally and before getting his law degree at the University of Idaho he received his BS in Forestry. He applied this background skillfully when as governor he negotiated a well-received roadless area management agreement with the federal government.

My bet is that when the smoke clears there will be Lochsa legislation which will be fair, balanced and well received. Again¸ I’ll give Risch his due. He can be very good when he wants to be.

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Some disparate thoughts for one to ponder as he or she goes about their daily routine.

Item #1. Idaho’s brand. For many years now if one were asked what came to mind when they heard the word “Idaho,” inevitably it would prompt association with potatoes. The phrase “Famous Potatoes” is even on the license plate. The Idaho Potato Commission has spent millions on clever advertising that underscore how superior our potatoes are to those pretenders in Maine or central Washington.

Ads in recent years are some of the best ever with the spud farmer and his dog driving a vintage Studebaker pick-up truck all over the country trying to locate, and just missing the traveling “Giant Idaho Spud” truck. Such well produced with clever dialogue ads make any citizen proud to be an Idahoan.

That’s the good side of the brand. Unfortunately, there is a bad side that has taken years to change despite the efforts of many folks in north Idaho to correct the image. It is the by-product of the late neo-Nazi, Richard Butler, establishing his “church” and compound in Hayden. This purveyor of hate, espouser of racism, and a fear-mongering anti-Semite, almost overnight furthered a misperception of Idaho as a state full of bigots.

A little over 11 years ago my wife and I along with our son and youngest daughter were on a delightful three week trip driving all over Scotland. We’d been in the Orkney Islands and just had gotten off the ferry at Thurso. It being Sunday I picked up the Daily Scotsman and like many Sunday papers it carried a Sunday magazine the cover of which stunned me: The Neo-Nazis of north Idaho marching down the main street of Coeur d’Alene. Butler had earlier been evicted, and the church and compound burned to the ground.

Yet years later this is still often the second association many have when they hear the word Idaho. I mention this because one of the fall outs of the Bundy and Hammond ranching families seizure of the Visitor Center at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge near Burns in eastern Oregon is going to be another black eye for several western states, like Idaho, Nevada¸Utah and Wyoming¸where the federal government owns on behalf of all Amercians most of the land.

These scofflaws give the vast majority of hard-working, tax-paying ranching families a bad name and further the “wild west” image many in the east still view as the truth about the mountain west.

Item #2. Ads on the 100th Anniversary of one of Uncle Sam’s most popular organizations, the National Park Service. Americans love their parks, whether its Yellowstone, the Olympics, Yosemite, Acadia, the Everglades, or one of the Urban National Parks like Golden Gate.

Normally, I might question spending taxpayer money on such self-congratulatory ads. This is an exception though. Also, I looked a little deeper and discovered that the actual day the service was created was on August 25th, 1916. That day in 2016 just happens to be the 85th birthday of the Interior secretary who played the lead role in doubling the size of the lands managed by the National Park Service through the passage of the Alaskan Lands legislation in 1980 – Governor Cecil D. Andrus.

I suspect the coincidence will not escape the notice of current Interior Secretary Sally Jewell or NPS Director Jon Jarvis and that an appropriate part will be carved out of the program in Yellowstone Park on that day for Idaho’s former four-term governor.

Item #3. The Republican National Convention. It will be held in July in Cleveland. When the smoke clears, sanity will have returned and the nominee will be Ohio Governor John Kasich who many observers believe is the best of the GOP field and the one who will give presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton the toughest race. There is one simple indisputable fact: no Republican has ever won the presidency without taking Ohio.

Item #4. The luck of the Seahawks. That phrase may replace the more classic “luck of the Irish” someday. Unbelievable that they got by the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday because the normally reliable Viking field goal kicker who had already made three longer field goals during the game, would miss a 27 yard chip shot in the last seconds.

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One of the shameful aspects of modern politics is the tendency of people to define those holding differing views with perjorative labels. For example, in a recent column I complimented a conservative Republican state representative, Luke Malek, for displaying solid judgment and genuine dedication to his public service in a town hall meeting he held.

This was apparently too much for a Tea Party ideological critic of Malek’s, and in particular, Rep. Carol Nillson Troy. Note that I too am using a couple of labels to define the critic. His letter to the editor was a classic case of using the guilt by association and the false syllogism devices as rebuttal. Others might simply call it the “straw dog” device.

To this particular critic it was further proof that these two representitives had to be RINOS, Republicans in Name Only¸because they were being complimented by a “liberal Democrat.” Of course “liberal” despite its derivative from the Latin word liber (to free, to be free) just as libertarian is also a derivative, is now a nasty perjorative.

For the record I have always labeled myself as a business Democrat or an Andrus Democrat – that is a social liberal who is fiscally conservative. By that I mean I believe government has an obligation to help those who through no fault of their own cannot help themselves and government is the only agency that can realistically provide the needed help. However, we have to pay for that government assistance as we go. It is simply immoral to pass debt along to our children and grandchildren, as we have been doing. Both parties are guilty of this.

Thus, I support the solutions of the Simpson/Bowles Commission which came up with a solid set of recommendations that over a period of time would restore fiscal sanity to the nation.

Here’s the real ignorance in calling me a “liberal Democrat.” Even a minimal amount of research would reveal that in the eyes of many Democrats I’m at a minimum an apostate—one who deviates from orthodoxy—if not an outright independent. I vote for the person, not the party. I own firearms and rifles, have a concealed weapons permit and I believe friendship trumps partisanship any day.

I even have a copy of a resolution passed in 1982 by the King County Democrats drumming me out of the Democratic party for apostasy. They were outraged that I had played a major role in forming a Democrats for Dan Evans for the U.S. Senate committee. We bought our own ads and sent a group reflecting our diverse membership barnstorming around the state.

Evans defeated a true self-described super liberal, Congressman Mike Lowry, for the seat held by the legendary Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson. Many observers felt our committeee had been a critical part of the former three-term governor’s success.

I helped because Dan was a friend, I’d served on the Northwest Power Planning Council with him, and he asked.

This was too much for the late Karen Marchioro (Later the state chair) and her associate, Geoff Smith. The day after I received my expulsion notice I received the first of continuing requests for money for the party.

I compounded my apostasy in 1988 when I publicly supported a friend and the mentor to a future partner, the conservative U.S. Senator, Slade Gorton. Because of my role then as a major business figure in the Inland Northwest (regional vice president for Kaiser Aluminum), Slade asked and I cut television and radio ads supporting his candidacy.

Of coure that meant I again supported Slade in 2000 when he narrowly lost (2200 votes out of 2.4 million cast) a re-election bid to Maria Cantwell. When my business partner and former Gorton chief-of-staff, Mike McGavick, challenged Senator Cantwell in her 2006 re-election bid, I supported Mike. Friendship in my book always trumps partisanship and loyalty to those who have displayed loyalty to you is among the highest, and most rarely found, of political values.

It might further surprise readers to learn that the first Idaho officeholder to ask me to be his press secretary was a former Idaho governor and then U.S. Senator Len B. Jordan. While I greatly admired Len, I respectfully declined.

I am a self-described business or Andrus or conservative Democrat. To all those out there who want to label me as something else, go ahead, show your ignorance. Make my day.

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This past year may well go down in political history as one of the more wacky and weird ever. The emergence of Donald Trump as a genuine possible Republican nominee for president has clearly surprised the “chattering class” of journalists, commentators, the “inside the beltway” crowd, the self-styled political cognoscenti.

Trump has tapped into that vein of anger with the way things are, the shrinking middle class beset by too many obligations and too few resources, overwhelmed by a sense of unfairness, totally distrustful of a federal government that has earned the distrust through a series of lies to the American public, a government made up of folks who don’t realize the growing burden of oppressive rules and regulations.

Trump’s ability to dominate the race through seemingly outrageous and politically incorrect statements, his ability to generate television ratings, and to use the media he in part is campaigning against to deliver his messsage has been stunning.

So what will 2016 bring? Here are some even wackier predictions on both the national and state level that while admittedly unlikely might, never the less provoke thought on a reader’s part.

On a national level: Trump arrives at the Republican Convention with the most pledged delegates but not enough to win the nomination. Republican pooh-bahs still see disaster if he is the nominee and must deny him the nomination without having him leave and form a third party. What’s the solution?

RNC meets with House and Senate Republican caucuses and propose Speaker Paul Ryan resign to be replaced by Donald Trump. That’s correct, folks. The Constitution permits Congress to name anyone to the Speakership. Trump seizes the deal reognizing he still has a major platform, that after the Vice President he is next in line, and he does not run the risk of rejection at the polls or spending some of his billions.

What’s in it for Ryan, you ask? Paul Ryan becomes the Republican nominee for president.

On the Democratic side things become equally weird. Keep in mind the Obamas’ have never been close to the Clintons’ and that President Obama privately is not happy at the prospect of Hillary as his successor. Thus, when his Justice Department recommends he appoint a “Special Counsel” to oversee a review of the investigation of Hillary’s inexcusable use of an unsecured server for discussion of some critical official secrets, as well as other “unspecified” activities, Hillary reads the tea leaves corretly and with draws from the race in order to defend her good name.

The Democratic National Convention then by acclimation names Vice President Joe Biden as the party’s presidential nominee, in part because the the major unions pledge $1 billion to underwrite Biden’s campaign. Obama immediatedly endorses Biden, obviously more pleased with Joe as his successor. In November, Ryan wins.

On the state level, things get wackier also. First Disrrict congressman Raul Labrador, at the last possible moment, stuns Idahoans and senior U.S. Senator Mike Crapo by entering the Republican primary aganst Crapo. His declaration of candidacy nails Crapo as a faux conservtive, cites his 2012 drinking incident as inexcusable conduct, and charges Crapo with violating his Grover Norquist pledge never to support a tax increase.

Labrador, despite an ego growing like topsy ever since claiming to have forced Speaker John Boehner to leave office, and his alienation of many voters in eastern Idaho due to a perception of non-support for the Idaho National Lab, nonethe less defeats Crapo and coasts into the Senate.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s ranch, there has been a whole lot of scheming. Otter in November began quietly raising money for his personal PSC, ostensibly to support good Republican candidates for the Legislature.

The truth however is Butch has acquiesed to his wife Lori’s desire to be governor. Torn between his wife and loyalty to his long-time loyal lieutenant governor, Brad Little, Otter opts for his wife. Little immediately declares his canidacy for governor even though the election is 2 years away.

With Labrador going for the Senate rather than governor, as many had expected, former State Senator Russ Fulcher declares his candidacy and works to sew up the Tea Party vote. Crapo, still hearing the call for public service and angry with a right-wing he had tilted towards to no avail, seeks revewnge by also entering the 2018 governor’s race. Thus, the GOP primary in May, 2018, sees a free-for-all between Lori Otter, Brad Little, Russ Fulcher and Mike Crapo. Little wins.

In the 2016 race to succeed Labrador in the House, Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmeyer is a surprise winner for the GOP nomination, defeating State Senators Bob Nonini and Mary Souza, as well as Rep. Luke Malek. Widmeyer defeats Democratic State Rep. Paulette Jordan in the general election.

And the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018 is Boise Mayor Dave Bieter who turns back a surprisingly strong challenge in the primary from Moscow State Senator Dr. Dan Schmidt. Little still wins in November 2018.

Admittedly my crystal ball is cloudy. These are all far-fetched speculation, but when politics gets this wacky, anything is possible. This coming year should be interesting. Happy New Year!

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Every Idahoan who cares about this state and how it came to be should read two relatively obscure books and be grateful the authors lived and worked here.

Through their writings and teaching these two left an indelible imprint on Idaho. Though they labored in obscurity, the political cognoscenti in Idaho know them well. Though they are fading into the mist of history, their contributions should be remembered. Any Idaho history is incomplete if it does not acknowledge their roles in shaping modern Idaho.

One book is a delightful novel, a murder mystery in fact, but chock full of the author’s knowledge of Idaho government, politics and public affairs. The other is a wonderful history of the major environmental issues that transformed and dominated much of Idaho’s political debate for fifty years, from the late 1930’s to the late 1980’s.

The novel, The Unlikely Candidate, is by the late Syd Duncombe who for 27 years taught government and political science courses at the University of Idaho. He was an inspiring influence to an entire generation of Idaho’s political leadership. Among those influenced directly by taking a class or indirectly by being drawn into out of class discussions prompted by his teachings were future U.S. senators and/or governors like Dirk Kempthorne, Jim Risch, Larry Craig and Steve Symms or future attorney generals like David Leroy. Then there are the “behind the scenes” political practitioners also influenced by Duncombe’s passion for politics, people like Phil Reberger, Robie Russell, Marty Peterson and Roy Eiguren.

Many of his former students could recall how he brought politics to life by brinigng different hats to class and then switching hats as he switched roles in the lessons he was bringing to life. His knowledge of politics was not just academic either. Before coming to Idaho he had worked in state government in New York and had been Superintendent of the Budget in Ohio.

He cultivated political office holders on both sides of the aisle. One of his great fans was Cecil Andrus who made Duncombe his Acting Director of the Budget Office upon his first election as governor in 1970. Duncombe put together Andrus’ first budget and Andrus always acknowledged his debt for Syd showing how a governor could truly shape policy if he understood how to put together a budget.

The novel’s hero is, surprise, a retired state budget director. Duncombe, however, wove into the text the kind of authentic details and knowledge that rings true with any who have been drawn into politics.

Syd had been working on the novel for several years. His beloved wife, Mary, died in 1997 but before doing so insisted Syd finish the book which he did in 1998. His passages on cancer are poignant as his writing was obviously one way of dealing with his grief.

He died at the age of 78 in Idaho Falls in late September of 2004. His legacy should live on beyond the life span of the hearts that were directly touched by his zest for life and politics.

The second book, Defending Idaho’s Natural History, is by former journalist and nine-term State Representative Ken Robison. He was born in Nampa in 1936, received his B.A. degree from Idaho State in 1957 and began a 30 year career in Journalism in 1959 as a copy editor at the Idaho Statesman. He was both a reporter and editor for the Statesman and from 1977 until his election to the Idaho Legislature in 1986 from Boise’s 19th Legislative District was the editorial page editor.

When it came to handing out charisma Ken missed the session. He always came across as a thoughtful but calm, dispassionate and objective – the journalistic version of Joe Friday – “just the facts, Ma’m” To the surprise of many though he turned into an outstanding legislator, one who always did his homework and when he spoke people listened.

He loved the Legislature, so he was one of those bulldog campaigners – knocking on every door in his district every year. Not surprisingly, his diligence and had work was rewarded by re-election eight times.

Robison brings this same diligence to his history of Idaho’s major environmental battles. He recognizes the truth in the old expression “success has a thousand fathers and mothers; failure is an orphan.”
He knows too that it is “citizen-activists” who bring change about and the parade of the involved changes inasmuch as some battles are decades long.

He does justice though to the many key folks who put forth time, talent and treasure. His account of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering is fascinating, and he exhaustively documents his sources. From the battles to restore salmon and steelhead runs, to the fight to protect the White Clouds, Hells Canyon and the Sawtooths to the creation of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and the Selway/Bitteroot Wilderness its all there.

Robison has done an invaluable service in documenting the fight and the fighters.

Like Duncombe he too has labored in obscurity, but all Idahoans owe them both a tremendous vote of thanks.

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The voice on the other end of the telephone belonged to a nice lady who hailed from Wisconsin. She and her husband, who she described as an outdoor enthusiast, had moved to Wallace 14 years ago.

Wisconsin is a state with two strong political parties, and while in recent years the Democrats and their union allies have been outmaneuvered by Governor Scott Walker to the point where critics feel Wisconsin Democrats are somewhat moribund, their organization looks postively dynamic compared to Idaho’s.

The caller wanted to know whether I could come speak to a discussion group of about 25 mostly Democrats and would I be willing to share thoughts on whether there would ever be a Democratic resurrection. Here’s the gist of what I said.

The Democrats can once again be the majority choice of Idaho voters, but it is going to take time, hard work, a major reframing of the issues they focus on and the mother’s milk—money.

Here’s what has to happen: the new State Chair, former State Senator Bert Marley from Pocatello, has to visit all 44 Idaho counties. While there he must interview the county chair and emphasize the paramount obligation to find qualified Democrats to contest for every office on the local ballot. Additionally, they must fill every precinct committee slot.

If the county chair cannot do that Marley should replace them with someone who can get the job done.

Conversely, Marley owes it to these county chairs to find qualified candidates to contest every statewide and federal office. The bottom line is a party cannot start up the comeback trail without contesting every position on a ballot. One cannot win an election with nobody on the ballot, as is the case all too often.

Secondly, Democrats have to thrust forward the kind of talent that has put time in grade developing the personal relationships still critical to winning elections. Butch Otter has won three terms as governor not because of his do-nothing, risk nothing policies. He has won because he spent 14 years as Lt. Governor traveling the state building the kinds of personal relationships with donors, party workers and constituent interest groups essential to achieving ballot success.

Nothing against Steve Allred or A.J. Balukoff, the D’s last two gubernatorial nominees. Both are fine individuals but neither had spent the time in-grade developing the necessary political relationships, nor had they served in other partisan offices.

Next, the Idaho Democratic Party has to attract back the lunch-bucket carrying Democrat—the hard-working, tax-paying dirt under the finger-nails miner, or logger or farmer who started migrating to the Republican party after they felt deserted by the left-leaning, super liberal element of the party.

Others call these folks Andrus Democrats. Whatever one terms them, they along with many independents and Republicans (Andrus received as high as 30% of the Republican vote) voters carried Andrus to victory four times with two of those gubernatorial races providing the highest winning margins in Idaho history.

The Andrus formula falls under the umbrella of what he calls the three “E’s:” the Economy, Education and the Environment. He authored the phrase, “First one has to make a living; then, they have to have a living worthwhile.” In other words one has to have a job.

Consequently, he focused on policies which enhanced job creation and expanded the economic pie—but not at the expense of erxisting businesses. New business had to pay its on way. He did not believe nor did he offer incentives that in actuality were subsidies at the expense of existing business.

Secondly, he knew how important quality educational offerings were to business leaders looking to relocate their business and their families. His steadfast support for education including better pay for teachers was steadfast and constant.

Third, he knew how important Idaho’s quality of life was to the numerous citizens who enjoyed all forms of outdoor recreation. For that reason he was as supportive of wilderness areas and wild and scenic rivers as he was of national recreation areas and multiple uses on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.

Andrus saw these as issues around which people could unite. He avoided trumpeting the numerous social issues that divide people, and which made it all too easy for Republicans to define Democrats.

His advice today would be don’t let your opponents define you, reframe your messages, get back to basics, avoid fear-mongering, and be for the three “E’s.” When Idaho Democrats start listening and acting on the advice of their most successful office-holder ever, the comeback will start.

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A friend sent a note recently recounting a discussion he had with an employee of Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game. My friend is more of a fly fisherman than a hunter. Nonetheless, they talked hunting. He said the Fish & Game employee stated the department is developing data which could show two out of three elk killed in Idaho annually are poached.

That number seemed high so I called my neigbhor, Brad Corkill, who lives a few miles down the road near Rose Lake, and is the north Idaho representative on the Fish & Game Commission.

Corkill said he too thought the number was high, but to a Fish & Game commissioner any number above that of tags sold is too high. He added the figure of two out of three would be hard to prove. It presumes a degree of hard, factual data the department does not yet possess.

If one includes in the “illegal take” the number for “party hunting” (The number shot by one member of a hunting party but someone other than the shooter puts their tag on the game) Corkill conceded the two of three number might be getting close to the real answer.

It should also be pointed out that the number for “road kill” is not utilized though it is an “untagged” taking. As long as one calls the department to report their taking the kill with them, it is legal to do so.

Nonetheless there is ample evidence Idaho has a serious poaching problem. Corkill referred me to Chip Corsi in the regional office. He was informative and helpful in digging into this issue.

Corsi said the number of illegally taken elk was thought to be high by many in the agency, but no one really knew how high. He thought their agency was getting increasingly better at drilling down on the real number and was doing more “focused research” to get at the actual total take. Still there was not enough evidence to warrant significant changes in the length of elk hunting season.

Both Corsi and Corkill praised the work of Citizens Against Poaching, an independent group made up largely of hunters who keep their eyes and ears open for people who brag about illegal takes or, as is often the case in poaching, multiple takes. They report sightings, rumors and suspicions to the agency for follow up.

Both were asked if they thought poaching was ingrained in north Idaho’s “culture?” The argument is the poaching that does occur is often necessity driven—-a hunter has little income, has to feed his family and keep the larder full, so he spotlights and shoots game from the road at night even though against the law. The second aspect of this argument is many north Idahoans living up the various creeks, draws and canyons feel any game on their property is fair game and their game. It is viewed as an extension of their right to the benefits of their land ownership.

It would appear also that many hunters do not view “party hunting” as illegal conduct and still view themselves as law-abiding citizens.

Both Corsi and Corkill firmly reject the “in the culture”view. Corsi said there may be some families who hold these views but indicated that at many of the poaching sites Fish & Game discover there are multiple kills perpetrated by hardened criminals—individuals who have committed or are commiting other crimes.

They acknowledge that when one hears a series of rifle shots after dark and a few days before a season opens, it is a poacher at work. Corkill pointed to the obvious: a person doesn’t sight –in his rifle after dark.

Both, though, believe the vast majority of north Idaho hunters are law-abiding citizens who recognize the Fish & Game department is a trustee who manages for the long-term, and whose goal is to create ample opportunities for Idahoans to enjoy hunting for years to come.

Corkill speaks eloquently about the evolution of game management philosophy and the great difference between the European approach and the American. He points out to anyone who will listen that in Europe the landowner does own the game. In the classic tale of Robin Hood one should recall his worst offence for which he was sentenced to die is that of killing the Duke’s deer.

As a consequence hunting in Europe is largely confined to the wealthy, which Corkill sees as tragic.

He also believes the public gets the nexus between future sustainability of big game and the need to be diligent in protecting the resource so the many may enjoy.

Still, when all is said and done, Fish & Game recognizes its responsibility to come up with a valid number on illegal take and to factor that into its calculation of what it takes to protect a resource in order to manage successfully in perpetuity. And while today they may not have a hard number before long they will. The result indeed may be shortening of seasons which can be laid at the feet of the poacher. If you see someone poaching, call Fish & Game. The elk they might be about to kill just could be the one meant for you.

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