Dear President Trump
Who will Replace Zinke? There has been a lot of debate lately since Secretary of Interior Zinke’s pending resignation and who might replace him. We would like to add our two cents on the two potential candidates from Idaho, Governor Butch Otter and Congressman Raul Labrador.
When you look back at the people who have been fighting for Idaho and for that matter the western states to get their land back only a few names ring a bell with us. Congressman-elect Russ Fulcher, Congressman Raul Labrador, former State Representative Robert Forrey and former County Commissioner Jim Chmelik. On the other hand, when we look at those who have done nothing and in fact been abusive to our land policies we have one name that rings a very loud bell that name being Governor Butch Otter.
Otter was the tip of the spear when it came to the Idaho Land Board trading state-owned land for commercial properties when as our Governor he should be protecting the interests of Idahoans instead he did nothing to further the necessary changes to secure our land and to manage our forests.
Let us remind you of some of the Land Boards crony actions: In 2013 the Land Board traded a McCall property for an Idaho Falls building for $6.1 million estimated value and sold it back to the real estate investor about 1 year later for 5.3 million. Although the State gained 2.9 million on the lease of the property that did not account for the fact that they paid no property taxes on the property and that there was substantial risk to the taxpayers of Idaho if the lease was not renewed. The other problem with this deal is that a Property in McCall was traded for this building and Valuations of the building were 1.3 million less than the McCall property being traded for it.
This is the type of deal that crony politicians get involved with as they put into jeopardy our valuable state lands. While we acknowledge that the Idaho Constitution says it is the Land Boards responsibility to manage State land in a prudent way to obtain the maximum long-term financial return when we look at the past transactions we find little validity to the word prudent in their actions. What the Land Board did with Otter at the helm did was to invest in commercial properties which are always subject to reevaluation because of their continuing changing market values. These were risk-oriented transactions, not a prudent investment, in our opinion.
We do not want to see someone like Governor Otter as Interior Secretary: The Governor has proven himself to be a crony politician looking at his past history with virtually no record of trying to find a solution to get the rational management of our forests. His recent push for Medicaid Expansion in Idaho as he has tried to make us believe. Let us not either forget his support for John Kasich for president in the primaries. It is time for the Governor to go quietly into the night and exit stage left as he has served the State for many more years than some of us would have liked.
Labrador is preferred: We would prefer to see our 1st congressional district Congressman Raul Labrador take over as Secretary of the Interior as he has been a champion of gradually moving Idaho’s lands management out of the hands of the federal government and allowing Idahoan’s to manage their own land. He sponsored HR 2316. This bill was vehemently opposed by environmental groups who viewed it as a first step toward transferring control of federal lands to states and leading to more mining, logging. They thought it would foster other such activities at the expense of recreation and conservation. What it actually would have done is let states set up “community forest demonstration areas” on Forest Service lands, where they could manage up to about 2 percent of Forest Service lands. This bill would have been an excellent start for the States to reclaim their rightful management and possible eventual ownership of this federally controlled land.
Even if we did not get to take it back it would be a proving ground for best practices in the management of our forests. This was a definite alternative to the failing federal management of much of our land and in Idaho’s case, we are talking about over 63% of Idaho land. States would have been able to show that they were capable of managing the land while protecting access, supporting local communities and creating healthy forests.
Labrador is someone who is actually trying to find solutions to our land management and conservation problems like the bill which he co-sponsored H.R. 3144 which would force continued path of failing salmon and steelhead recovery, and end the current process to find alternatives to recovery. Labrador also introduced a bill that would spur geothermal exploration and lifts regulatory hurdles to unleash clean energy development in Idaho and other federal land states.
Congressman Labrador, a true conservative, has championed state management of federally controlled lands; while, on the other hand, Governor Otter has been looking for ways to benefit his crony friends. If you want to see better management of our forests and someone who will put Idahoans first take a minute to send a letter, e-mail or voice mail to President Trump asking him to appoint Congressman Labrador to the position of Secretary of the Interior.
“We Get the Government We Deserve”