Audio: Politics on planet Idaho

The atmosphere might be turning green


On September 18, 2008, High Country News sponsored a panel discussion at Boise State University. Senior editor Ray Ring led distinguished politicians and environmentalists in a lively conversation about the problems and successes, trends and surprises in the greening state of Idaho.

Part 1

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Part 2

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Part 3

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Cecil Andrus served stints as Idaho's governor for a total of 14 years during the 1970s-early 1990s, plus four years as Secretary of Interior for President Jimmy Carter. He also served in the state legislature. He founded the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, and now works as an attorney with the Gallatin Public Affairs Group. He's a longtime champion for salmon, wilderness, stream quality and other environmental issues. He says he's able to strike a balance between often conflicting conservation and development positions.

Brad Little is a third-generation Idaho rancher, working livestock and crops, and he's taken a leadership role in many ag and business groups. He's also a longtime Republican legislator, now serving as a state senator and Majority Caucus Chairman. He's involved in efforts to resolve livestock grazing and timber management controversies on public lands, and to improve land-use planning and open-space preservation on private lands. He served on the High Country News board of directors during the 1990s.

Rick Johnson has been executive director of the Idaho Conservation League for 14 years. Under his leadership, the group has grown to have nearly 10,000 members and 15 staffers, in the Boise headquarters and two branch offices. He says he's also improved the group's impact and credibility, and he's recognized as a regional leader in conservation strategy and organizational development. He serves on several boards including the Campaign for America’s Wilderness and Conservation Voters for Idaho. From 1987-1995 he worked for the Sierra Club in Seattle on a variety of issues including the Northwest's spotted owl and ancient forest campaign, and he has many years of experience lobbying Congress.

Laird Lucas is executive director of Advocates for the West, a public-interest environmental law firm based in Boise, providing free legal services to conservation groups in Idaho and other Western states. He's a graduate of Yale Law School, and says that over 15 years, he's won dozens of cutting-edge cases to protect public lands, clean water, fish and wildlife, and other environmental values. His recent court victories include a 2007 challenge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's politically-motivated refusal to protect sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act; and a 2007 challenge of the Bureau of Land Management's attempt to reduce ecological protections and public involvement in grazing management on 160 million acres of public lands across the West.

María González Mabbutt was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. She migrated with her family to the Mini-Cassia area of Idaho in 1970, and as she puts it, settled out of the migrant farmworker stream. She worked in Idaho's fields through the summer of 1974, then earned a bachelor's degree at Boise State University, and took up grass-roots farmworker and Latino advocacy. She focuses on issues such as workers' compensation, minimum wage, pesticides and other threats to health, voter mobilization, and encouraging other women to be leaders. She's had a leadership role in many groups, including the Fund for Idaho, the Idaho Hispanic Caucus, Women's Voices for the Earth, and Mujeres Unidas de Idaho.

John C. Freemuth is a Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Boise State University, and Senior Fellow at the Cecil Andrus Center for Public Policy. His work focuses on natural resources and public lands issues, ranging from wildfires to sage grouse to the role of science in decision-making. He's a prolific writer, and co-editor of a new book, Environmental Politics and Policy in the West. He works with many government agencies and institutions, and he's also been a seasonal park ranger.

Ray Ring is High Country News' senior editor. He has been writing about the West since 1979, and has concentrated on the Northern Rockies since 2001 from his home base in Bozeman, Montana. His journalism has repeatedly won national recognition, including a 1982 Investigative Reporters & Editors' scroll, a 2007 George Polk Award for political reporting, and a 2008 Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for social justice journalism. He's also had three novels published.

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