Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Obama wants to keep the West happy

by Rocky Barker

    Forget the parlor game about which person President Barack Obama will pick as his Interior secretary or other posts that have dramatic impacts on Idaho, such as the Department of Energy.
    The person picked, while important, is not as critical as the president’s agenda for the region beyond the 100th Meridian. During his first term, Obama was largely conciliatory with leaders in the West.
    His Interior secretary, Ken Salazar, did not shove any major initiatives down the throats of Western states.
Western Republicans, including Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, protested loudly over Salazar’s “wild lands” policy, which was aimed at managing roadless areas controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. But Obama didn’t fight back when Congress put a hold on it; he wasn’t looking for a fight.
    Salazar aggressively pushed the delisting of wolves from Day One and did not oppose the bill that delisted them, backed by Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. Without that bill, Tester most likely would have lost to Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg. Tester’s election was more important politically to Obama than pleasing wildlife advocates.
    That won’t change in the second term. For the first time, Democrats appear to have a chance to make major gains across the West.
    “They’re not going to do something to make a Jon Tester or a Harry Reid go crazy,” said Idaho Conservation League Executive Director Rick Johnson, who is in Washington for Obama’s inauguration.
Climate change will remain the major environmental issue on Obama’s plate...
    The harder issue ahead for farmers, hunters and other westerners is private lands. Since 1985, farm bills have included billions of dollars for conservation programs — such as the conservation reserve program that paid farmers to rest their land in grass instead of grow crops.
    Up to 42 million acres of private land has been turned into habitat for ducks, upland birds and many other species of wildlife, but that could be coming to an end because of major changes in government and the farm economy.
    “This perfect storm of collapsing budgets and extraordinary commodity prices is destroying 30 years of conservation programs,” said Tom France, National Wildlife Federation regional director in Missoula, Mont...
    There will still be issues such as sage grouse listing, power lines, salmon and grizzly bears.
    These aren’t War on the West issues.

I'm not sure about that "keep" in the title. 

Personally, I've been worried about just the opposite.  With no re-election concerns and Salazar leaving, I figured we might be in for a no-holds-barred War On The West.

Years back Barker and I attended a PERC conference and I found him to be a thoughtful guy.  Let's hope he's right and my concerns are unfounded. 

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