We gathered together six individuals who really know their way around Idaho and asked them to discuss the big issues facing the state in the next ten years. The conversation was animated and insightful, and part of the discussion is included in our Outdoor Idaho program. We are grateful to the staff of the Idaho Botanical Garden, for letting us use their picturesque outdoor Lewis & Clark exhibit.
Sara Baldwin: "Climate change definitely is a theme that weaves through a lot of the issues that are going to face Idaho in the next ten years with regards to natural resource issues. But more than that, I think the changes in our population is really the common thread through all those issues."
Laird Noh: "I brought along, just suspecting this might be one of the subjects, a mailing of beautiful ranch properties throughout the west by a fairly prominent real estate firm, and there's an Idaho section; and the first of eleven ranches for sale is listed as this spectacular 690 acre deeded ranch that occupies its own mountain valley. The ranch is 2.5 miles long, it's surrounded on three sides by federal land, with a mountain trout stream running the entire length of the property: $6,000,000.
So that's the struggle I think that many people in the ranching business are confronted with, as we see what is certainly appearing to be a change; pressures to get off the public land with livestock and at the same time, enormous checks dangled for the purchase of that private property."
Margaret Soulen Hinson: "There's just this great quote by Aldo Leopold, that I just love. I think he was the epitome of the conservationist. He said there are two spiritual dangers in this world. One is believing that breakfast comes from the grocery. The other is that heat comes from the furnace.
And I think the sad part is, as we see all this movement away from our agrarian roots, we lose that touch with the land, and we lose the sense of what it all means."
John Freemuth: "I think Idahoans are going to have to confront, we are a net importer of energy. We're going to have to face an energy future here that's going to change what we're used to, cheap power that came from the dams. And that could lead to a whole number of issues that we haven't dealt with before. Are we going to put nuclear plants in Idaho? What are we going to do? Are we going to dam more rivers?"
John McCarthy: "Protecting the big blocks of our public lands gets more and more important, for resilience, for ecological systems, for climate change, for the public to have a place they can go and experience nature. We have such an incredible resource here that is so rare anymore, to be able to appreciate nature, to be able to understand nature, to see how it really functions in a natural system.
The idea that Idaho has this large intact sagebrush system, this vast forest system — I think it's critical we find ways to protect and appreciate it."
Bill Studebaker: "This naturalness about Idaho, though, in the last 40 years I've seen Idaho become more and more artificial. Go down the Middle Fork and I see boom boxes and satellite televisions and cell phones and watches and GPS units. It ruins the whole ambiance. I believe in psychological wilderness as well as physical wilderness.
You ought to be going out there for reasons of the spirit and reasons of the mind, not just to be so many miles from somebody else."
Laird Noh: "These are very much, so to speak, watershed days in terms of the future of water in Idaho. And at the same time, while those issues are up in the air, until legal decisions are made, there's reluctance to compromise."
Sara Baldwin: "The answer isn't in the courts. You get an answer, but I think those court decisions rarely resolve issues. They just make them more complex."
Margaret Soulen: "Somewhere we've got to come together, rather than battling in court, because everybody loses in those situations. And I think the opportunity is right, I think there's enough of us that have been around for long enough fighting over the issues that we all know and respect each other."
John Freemuth: "Maybe our politics is part of a bigger cycle, where we're slowly moving into, 'Let's solve some problems here,' rather than this fringy partitionized, 'If you're not with me, you're evil.' I certainly have room to hope that the rhetoric I hear is a little different this time."