Idaho State Journal
Activists question candidates
Environmental issues missing
By Anne Minard
POCATELLO - Local election hopefuls aren't trumpeting major
environmental agendas this year.
But a strong core of local environmental activists say they
hope local politicians and voters will consider clean water and
the state of public lands as ballot decisions form.
Beatrice Brailsford is a program director for the Snake River
Alliance, a nuclear activist group.
She said nuclear issues at the Idaho National Engineering and
Environmental Laboratory are long-term - but decisions will be
made within the next several years which could greatly affect
long-range operations there.
"What folks should be looking for are people who will be
activists," she said. "There are going to be courses
charted in the next two or three years that really will determine
whether or not Idaho's water is protected. In other places, the
political leaders really are leading on this issue. I think we
need politicians who will stand up and say, 'Idaho's water is
more important than one corporation's interests'," she said.
Brailsford pointed out that all local politicians, down to city
council members and county commissioners, have a place in statewide
She calls for increased awareness and input from all officials
to establish a hard line against leaving nuclear waste in Idaho.
"As I have noticed, our real political leaders are being
fairly quiet about this issue," she said. "I think
everyone's job is to make sure no one can be quiet about this
"I have been in meetings where it is very clear the underlying
narrative is that the buried waste will not be dug up. We've
got two or three years to make sure DOE finds it politically
impossible to make that decision."
Ron Watters, of Pocatello, has written books about ski camping,
cross-country skiing, whitewater rafting and back-country skiing
in Idaho, among others. The outdoor enthusiast said he's most
concerned right now about the aftermath of recent fires throughout
the region, and how it will affect land management.
"I have a concern that our politicians are going to use
the fires as an excuse to open up our forests to damaging logging,"
he said. "I'm hearing the politicians say we're having these
bad fires because we're not thinning out our forests properly.
We really need to look closely at what happened. There's been
no research. We don't know what damage has been done, and whether
there's any damage. In Yellowstone they found, years later, the
fires have been very good for the environment."
While Watters says he hopes forests won't open up to increased
logging, he admonishes federal agencies for a trend toward public
land use fees that are inconsistently administered.
"Land use is going to continue to be one area of concern,"
he said. "Sawtooth now has a fee. You have to buy a permit
to go hiking, mountain biking, or to climb. There are extra fees
for rivers; a pass on the Payette River now costs $30 in order
to use the parking lots."
He said the fees have come about because Congress has not supplied
"What's happening in the West we're just creating a bunch
of toll roads in Idaho. That begins to price some people out
of the outdoor experience."
Watters said he wouldn't mind supplementing his taxes with a
flat fee for public lands use.
"If we can come to a point where we can't afford to provide
public recreational opportunities for land users, then I'm willing
to pay a fee," he said. "But don't require me to pick
up passes every time I move to a new national forest."