Friday, February 04, 2011

Idaho Conservation Group Models Enviro Success in a Tough Political Climate

Since the November election, a lot of environmentalists have been publicly wringing their hands, despondent about the new political landscape. In fact, ever since the Obama administration appointed Ken Salazar, a Colorado rancher, as Secretary of the Interior, there has been widespread disappointment that nothing has changed. Now, with the new Congress, environmentalists fear things are about to get a lot worse. Rick Johnson, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League (ICL), one of Idaho’s oldest environmental organizations and, some would say, its most successful, does not share this pessimistic outlook. He notes that Idaho politics have always been extremely challenging for advocacy groups like ICL. “So I’m not that flipped out by this,” he said. “We just need to keep our heads down, keep doing what we’re doing and stay the course.” Johnson says ICL tends to take a longterm view, rather than focusing on the more immediate ups and downs. The ICL, founded in 1973, can point to an impressive track record of this steady-as-you-go approach. It includes preservation of the 2.3 million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in the ‘70s, the Idaho Clean Lakes and Water Quality Act in the ‘80s, a revised Idaho Forest Practices Act in the ‘90s and, more recently, helping pass the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness Bill, the first wilderness designation in Idaho in 29 years. Currently, ICL is in the forefront of the controversial effort to establish the Boulder White Clouds Wilderness in Idaho, or CIEDRA, (Central Idaho Environmental Development and Recreation Act) sponsored and championed by Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson (R)...more

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