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Commentaries and editorials

Kempthorne Speech Stresses States' Sovereignty

by Barry Espenson
Columbia Basin Bulletin - January 12, 2001

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne on Tuesday praised the Columbia Basin states, and his own state, for "remarkable accomplishments" on natural resource issues during 2000, but bridled at threats to regional sovereignty still faced on fish and wildlife, water and forest management issues.

Kempthorne, in his state of the state address delivered Monday, told the state Legislature, said that he and the governors of Montana, Oregon and Washington reached a watershed with a July agreement on a set of salmon restoration recommendations.

"For the first time ever, despite the years of conflict over salmon recovery, we produced the Four Governors' Agreement. With our neighbors from Washington, Oregon and Montana we have provided a road map for salmon recovery -- something I was told 'couldn't be done,' " Kempthorne said.

"We rose above political differences and geographic boundaries. It was bipartisan. It represented consensus. It respected states' water rights and property rights. It did not call for breaching the lower Snake River dams.

"It has empowered the state to set their own priorities for salmon recovery, instead of reacting to federal dictates," Kempthorne said. "And the federal government's biological opinion affirmed the majority of our agreement." The National Marine Fisheries Service hydrosystem BiOp, and a federal caucus recovery strategy, were released just before Christmas. Both address threats to threatened and endangered species.

The state of Idaho will channel its Endangered Species Act efforts through its new Office of Species Conservation, Kempthorne said.

"The issues Idaho faces under the Endangered Species Act are important complex," he said. "Just as we succeeded in coordinating the efforts with our neighboring states on salmon recovery, we can develop a coordinated approach to all endangered species issues in Idaho, one where we speak with one voice."

The species office was created via legislation passed by the Legislature during the 2000 session. It operates under the Governor's office. It is lead by administrator Jim Caswell, former forest supervisor of the Clearwater National Forest.

Kempthorne stressed throughout the natural resource portion of his speech that he would fight, in court and elsewhere, to protect his state's resources and its citizens' right to control those resources.

" day in and day out, Idaho's people and land face unrelenting challenges in the form of federal edicts and control," he said, listing wildfire management, forest health policy, grizzly bear reintroduction, roadless area lockups, Snake River Basin Adjudication, and Coeur d'Alene Basin clean-up lawsuits as examples.

"Two years ago, I said at this podium that I wouldn't be shy about tapping the Constitutional Defense Fund when our interests were threatened," Kempthorne said. "Can you believe the Clinton Administration proposal to re-introduce flesh-eating grizzly bears into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness?"

"Folks, this could be the first land management action in history to result in sure death and injury of citizens," Kempthorne said of the initiative to reintroduce the grizzlies, which are ESA listed, to Idaho.

"I met with the attorney general, the speaker and the president pro tem and we agree on this issue. We will challenge this blatant confrontation to our state sovereignty in federal court," Kempthorne told the Legislature.

Court challenges are imminent too regarding President Clinton's decision to protect 58.5 million acres of roadless national forest from road building and most commercial logging. The inventoried roadless areas include 9.3 million of the 20.5 million acres of national forest lands in Idaho, second only to the 12 million inventoried roadless acres in Alaska.

The order signed by Agriculture secretary Dan Glickman ignores "concerns raised by the Idaho Land Board and many states," Kempthorne said. "We will go to court once again to prevent this misguided and flawed federal policy from taking effect. Attorney General Al Lance and I agree this matter is 'ripe' for action."


Barry Espenson
Kempthorne Speech Stresses States' Sovereignty
Columbia Basin Bulletin, January 12, 2001

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