• Andrus and Carlson

"I've long thought that Governor Andrus has never been given the full credit he deserved for the critical role he played in leading the way to passage of the greatest single piece of conservation legislation in American history. So I set out to make sure the history books properly reflect this excellent piece of his legacy." - Chris Carlson

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A couple weeks back this column critiqued a “double truck” ad in the Coeur d’Alene Press written and paid for by a prominent local real estate executive, Chris Walsh, who owns Revolutionary Realty.

His firm caters in part to the “preppers,” those who seek out somewhat isolated property in northern Idaho where they build their homes, stockpile food and weapons and wait for Armageddon.

Walsh fired back and we each took another shot at the other, stereotyping the other, getting snarkier while getting close to the line, if not outright crossing it, of engaging in personal attack. I’ve long had a policy of not responding to comments on or attacks at my political musings, but also try not to engage in any sort of personal attack.

Something about Walsh’s passion as well as his still seeing Republican nominee Donald Trump as the only agent of needed change captured my attention.

So I sent him an e-mail suggesting we cease shooting and instead sit down over breakfast and listen to each other. I also apologized for the stereotyping as well as my snarky overtone. Walsh graciously accepted both the apology and the offer of breaking bread together.

We met for breakfast at the Elmer’s just off I-90 and Highway 95. We began by focusing on what we agreed upon. There was a surprising amount:

  • We felt both political parties have been captured by their large contributors, have lost touch with their base and reflect the special interests, not the public interest.
  • Both party caucuses in both houses of Congress are equally responsible for the gridlock that holds the nation’s capital in its thrall.
  • Too many federal agencies are filled with too many folks who see preserving their jobs as their prime purpose, instead of providing the public with efficient, effective service.
  • A systemic issue in the bureaucrats’ desire to preserve their jobs necessitates the writing of more and more regulations for them to interpret and administer.
  • The best vehicle for really changing the D.C. culture would be the imposition of term limits on both our elected representatives and those in the civil service.
  • Critical issues facing America and whomever becomes president are not being addressed, such as the looming bankruptcy of many of the nation’s pension funds, which all will look to our empty Treasury expecting a federal bailout which Congress will not be able to do.
  • The Simpson/Bowles Commission on Restoring Fiscal Accountability to the nation’s finances by starting down a path of reducing spending and paying down debt is an unfortuate lost opportunity.
  • Resource conversion is what brings new dollars into the economy, whether trees into 2 x 4’s, wheat into bread, minerals into metals and computers; and, while it is important to undertake more of these activities, it has to be done in an environmentally responsible way.
  • An educated workforce is critical to the betterment of any state and Idaho has to do more in the arena of support for public education.
  • The shrinking middle class does indeed subsidize the top tenth of 1% many of whom take full advantage of the numerous loopholes in the ungainly, overly complicated U.S. Tax Code, which has to be simplified.
  • Health care costs more than ever while covering less than ever.

Where we still disagreed is Walsh’s belief that because Trump is the only outsider left in the race, and the public knows change is needed, therefore he is the one a citizen should vote for.

Even if elected (which seems more and more unlikely given the release of another embarrassing tape), Trump has alienated so many of the constituencies one has to work with in order to get things done he will be utterly impotent and unable to produce anything he has promised.

With all due respect, I told Walsh my conclusion was the Donald was not the man to lead us out of the wilderness and the slough of despair. We parted friends, both the better for having sat down and listened to each other with full respect to our free speech rights. We agreed to meet again.

I presented Walsh with a copy of my three books and I accepted his offer of a flying tour of north Idaho in his vintage Beech Bonanza. I divined that he well understood the old caution to flier’s: “There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots. There are no old, bold pilots.”

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carlson

Former Arizona Governor and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt was in Coeur d’Alene recently to address the first annual north Idaho dinner for the Idaho Conservation League. The dinner is also a living memorial to the late Scott Reed, a Coeur d’Alene attorney who helped found the ICL, and who also became an expert on Environmental Impact Statements and water law.

Reed is survived by his beloved spouse, former State Senator Mary Lou Reed, a daughter, Tara, and a son, Bruce, who served former President Bill Clinton first at the Democratic Leadership Council and then as President Clinton’s chief domestic policy advisor.

Fellow Coeur d’Alene attorney and ICL board member Buddy Paul spearheaded the effort to put the sold-out dinner together.

At 78, Babbitt still is ramrod straight in posture, quiet and modest in demeanor, has a ready smile, a great sense of humor, an intellect like few others, and an undiminished passion for protecting the environment.

For an hour before the dinner, Governor Babbitt (the 47th Secretary of the Interior) sat down to discuss the future prospects for survival of the ocean-going salmon on the Columbia and Snake River systems, with two of Idaho’s leading conservationists: Pat Ford and Rick Johnson. For years Ford headed up the Boise office of the group “Save Our Salmon,” and before that was the executive director of the Idaho Conservation League.

Rick Johnson is the current executive director of ICL.

Ford is a strong advocate of taking out the four lower Snake dams, breaching them to restore natural river flow. Once again (4th time?) a Federal District Judge in Portland, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon, has ruled that the Biological Opinion on whether the dams too adversely inhibit the journey of the smolt to the sea is deficient. Therefore, ipso facto, the EIS so dependent on the BIOP, is also deficient.

Ford is the quintessential “lean, mean fighting machine,” and a vigorous advocate for restoring the salmon and steelhead runs, He speaks eloquently and writes with style and passion on the need for the region to take the proper steps before wild salmon and steelhead are extinct.

Still freckle-faced with red hair, he was quickly called “Pixie” while attending Columbia and receiving his undergraduate degree. Though “retired” Ford is still a master of detail as well as a master strategist.

This particular day Ford has a specific ask given that new hearings have been ordered by the judge. Ford has chafed at the inadequacy of the previous BIOP’s and EIS’s in part because none of the previous one’s did an honest and diligent examination of the breaching option.

He instinctively knows that a better examination by the Task Force charged with the responsibility will create more support for his goal. He wants to make sure that the incoming administration knows the importance of the issue. He also has spotted a shortcoming that has contributed to the inadequate reviews: there is no one from the Interior department’s fish and wildlife agency or from the Environmental Protection Agency on the Task Force.

His ask of Babbitt then is a letter to another former Interior secretary, Ken Salazar, who heads up Hillary Clinton’s Transition Team with Babbitt encouraging the Transition Group to pay heed to his request.

The former Arizona attorney general and 9-year governor still absorbs quickly and acts decisively.

He jokingly tells Johnson and Ford that he is once again a public employee working for the State of California at the behest of Governor Jerry Brown, heading up a Task Force that is examining California’s overworked, overdemand, overconsumed rivers.

He tells Johnson and Ford he is already zeroing in on the need salmon have for stream temperature no higher than 56 degrees if one wants to maximize the reproduction capabilities of the salmon and steelhead.

Ford commits to doing a draft and is rightly pleased to have achieved another small step in his relentless pursuit of preserving at least some of the historically magnificent salmon runs. Three warriors for the environment to whom future generations will owe much amble off to the reception.

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