Cecil Andrus tells the story about how, as a young logger in Orofino, Idaho, he would skid logs down streambeds because it was the easiest way to move them. Skidding, for those who don't know the rough-and-ready truths about logging, rips up the land and streams.
of us in logging in those good old days simply did not know any
better," Andrus says. "We were too engrossed in the everyday effort
of earning a living to consider the long-term damage."
That logger would go on to engineer the
protection of an area nearly twice the size of Idaho as wilderness
and national parks. He would become a fierce advocate for
preserving the wild salmon that used to spawn in the streams he
logged beside. He would win major environmental awards and help
moderate growth in the state he led as governor for 14 years
Yet Andrus is the same man who
pressed the development of an Air Force training range near one of
the state's most pristine areas, over the objections of state and
national environmentalists who revered him (HCN, 11/28/94). He also
called for changes in the federal Endangered Species Act to make it
easier on the economy, and he opposed reintroducing wolves in Idaho
Andrus, who grew up on a farm
in Oregon where he hunted and fished to help feed the family,
describes his philosophy this way: "First you must make a living;
then you must make a living that is worthwhile."
His unsuccessful effort on behalf of the Owyhee
Canyon training range strained his relations with
environmentalists, although Pat Ford, a leading Idaho
environmentalist, doesn't think that will last. But victory over
the military could be short-lived; there's a move in Congress to
appropriate money for the bombing runs.
calls himself a problem solver. Robert Sims, a Boise State
University history professor who knows him,
"He so relishes the
public arena, not in a self-serving way," Sims says. "It's like he
can hardly wait to tackle the next problem."
Andrus was elevated to the governorship in part on the strength of
his fight to stop mining in the heart of the White Cloud Mountains
in central Idaho. Out of that effort came the establishment of the
Sawtooth National Recreation Area in 1972.
governor, he championed land-use planning, pushing through a state
law in 1975. He advocated controlled and moderate growth, even
opposing the proposed Pioneer Power Plant near Boise in 1974. He
helped to establish the Hells Canyon National Recreation
These accomplishments led President Jimmy
Carter to appoint him interior secretary in 1978, the first cabinet
member ever chosen from Idaho. He went, determined to combine the
Interior Department with the Forest Service and other resource
agencies into one Department of Natural
On this he failed, says his friend
Dick Bennett, a timber man, in part because resource industries
like his didn't recognize advantages in it for them. Indecisiveness
on the part of the White House also contributed, Andrus
He says, "Here in the West there is
example after example in which the administration wouldn't listen
to experienced voices or mismanaged a problem, and it turned people
off. The inside-the-beltway crowd blew the one real chance they had
to get some much-needed rangeland reform. Then they stumbled and
fell on their face with mining reform."
Andrus expresses disappointment in Bruce Babbitt. "I overestimated
him ... He doesn't have the support of the White House that I had."
Wild Alaska: his greatest
Andrus' greatest national legacy is the
Alaska Lands Act, which was signed by Carter in 1980. The
wilderness and national park legislation had been on
environmentalists' agenda since the 1960s, after the passage of the
Wilderness Act. Several attempts were made to push it through, but
each was stopped by the powerful Alaska congressional delegation,
especially Republican Sen. Ted Stevens.
deadlock was broken with a classic Andrus power play. In 1978,
Andrus convinced Carter to withdraw administratively from multiple
use more than 100 million acres of Alaska land. With the stroke of
a pen the two set aside far more land than they would ever get in
legislation. By doing so, they put the ball in the court of Stevens
and wilderness opponents, who would need a bill to override Carter
and Andrus' withdrawals.
was clear to anybody that if it didn't pass before 1980, Reagan
would come in and you wouldn't ever set aside nearly as much
wilderness and park lands," says Gaylord Nelson, who was then a
U.S. senator from Wisconsin and is now a Wilderness Society
Andrus worked closely with Rep. Mo
Udall, D-Ariz., to finally pass a bill protecting 104.3 million
acres, including 12 new parks, 56 million acres of wilderness, 25
wild and scenic rivers and 11 new national wildlife refuges.
"You'll never adopt anything like that again," Nelson
Andrus also shepherded through a landmark
mining reclamation law, a progressive oil leasing program and
programs to protect wetlands, wildlife and fish. In Idaho, he
withdrew lands along the Snake River for the Birds of Prey Wildlife
Refuge. Bills to protect the Gospel Hump and River of No Return
wilderness areas were passed with Andrus' support and active
four-year period in the last quarter century that comes close to
the conservation accomplishments of those four years," says Ford,
former Idaho Conservation League executive
Andrus' willingness to ram projects
through caused some of his political opponents to consider him a
bully. "It's a style I do not support in politics," says Sen. Larry
One problem dogging Andrus from
his first days in the governor's office in 1970 was nuclear waste
at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. That year, he learned
that the Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of Energy's
predecessor, had haphazardly buried low-level but long-lived
nuclear waste at the lab.
Andrus balked at the
practice and won a pledge from AEC chairman Dixie Lee Ray that the
waste would be removed. That pledge forced federal officials to
design and build the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a nuclear waste
repository, in Carlsbad, N.M., that is bitterly opposed by many New
Mexico residents. When Andrus returned to the governor's chair in
1986, the pilot plant still had not opened and waste continued to
pile up at the Idaho lab, shipped from other DOE plants nationwide.
In 1988, Andrus and press secretary Marc Johnson toured the
Carlsbad waste plant.
Andrus and Johnson were
impressed with engineering that would embed the waste in stable
salt deposits for thousands of years. Andrus also was convinced,
Johnson said, that politics and a lack of leadership would prevent
DOE from ever opening the
"On the airplane
he looked over at me and said: "I think I'm going to tell the
federal government they can't bring any more waste into Idaho," "
Johnson recalls (HCN, 2/6/95).
rattling off all the reasons he couldn't do it. "He knew all the
arguments against it and he also could see five or six steps down
the road," Johnson says. "He knew it would get increased leverage
for environmental cleanup dollars at (the Idaho lab)."
The next day Johnson and Andrus told Energy
Secretary John Herrington that Idaho was off limits to nuclear
waste generated by federal agencies all over the country. A few
days later Andrus and nuclear waste were on the front page of The
New York Times.
The result: Millions of dollars
were allocated to the Idaho facility in the late 1980s and early
1990s to satisfy commitments made by DOE to Andrus, who limited the
waste Idaho would take. When the issue went to court in 1991, to
everyone's surprise, Idaho and Andrus won, forcing the federal
government to study alternative sites and to complete a full
environmental impact statement of waste storage at the lab. The
final EIS is due in April.
Andrus and Democrats, his intransigent positions and strident
rhetoric turned much of eastern Idaho against him. Sen. Craig says
it weakened Idaho's position when the state fought to save other
programs at the Idaho National Engineering
He could have
been a contender
Andrus' executive skills and
success often placed his name on Democratic lists for Senate
candidates, cabinet appointments and even vice president. But he
came to disdain the political landscape of Washington, and when he
left in 1980 he said he would never go back.
Then in 1985, Andrus came to another crossroads. He had left public
life to start a lucrative consulting business with several former
aides. "I was making more money than I ever made in my life," he
says. "But I wasn't having the fun I was having in the political
He had lunch with Chris Carlson, a
longtime aide who was then working for Kaiser Aluminum. "I tried to
convince him to let us put together a plan to run him for
president," Carlson says.
went like this: Andrus would challenge Sen. Steve Symms, R-Idaho.
When he won, he would just keep on running - for the Democratic
nomination in 1988. Andrus' television presence was second only to
that of Ronald Reagan, according to former Oregon Gov. Tom McCall,
Carlson says. He was a good fund-raiser and could appeal to most
"Carlson, you go right
square to hell," Andrus said, according to Carlson. "I don't want
to be president of the United States; I want to be governor of
today," Carlson says, "if he had had the requisite ambition he
would have won." n
Barker reports for the Idaho Falls Post