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Idaho Politics

On Poaching and Personal Responsibility: The Rex Rammell Incident

In logic akin to being caught in the act of shoplifting a television and then arguing that the shoplifter should be allowed to keep the TV until found guilty by a jury, Rammell has maintained that IDF&G had no right to confiscate the elk, since he has not yet been proven guilty (though he admits to having the elk in his possession and to not being properly licensed). To date, Rammell has taken no personal responsibility for the incident, and he entered a not guilty plea to the charges at the end of December. He places the blame instead on the employee at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Idaho Falls who sold him the tag. Rammell claims the employee told him he was purchasing an elk tag that would allow him to hunt in any zone in the state that he wished. It is worth noting that no such elk tag exists – when hunters purchase elk tags in the state of Idaho, they must specify the zone they plan to hunt in, and are limited to that zone. This is not a recent change in the regulations, and the employee who sold Rammell the tag has been a licensing agent at the store for 10 years. Read More »

Idaho Legislation Highlights Disagreements Over Hunters On ATVs

Legislation to be introduced to Idaho lawmakers later this winter highlights key issues in the sometimes prickly relationship between two types of Rocky Mountain hunters: those who prefer traditional methods and those who bag their game with the aid of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). The proposed changes in Idaho law, being prepared by state Sen. Tim Corder (R-Mountain Home), will address the role of Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) in determining which trails should be open or closed to hunters using ATVs. In recent years, such decisions have been increasingly driven by federal initiatives of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In 2001, Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission approved the Motorized Vehicle Rule, which aims to help protect wildlife resources by limiting the use of vehicles as aids to hunting. The intention was both to decrease the efficiency of hunters who use ATVs and to address increasing complaints from other hunters about the negative effects of such vehicles, particularly in remote places. Read More »

What’s At Stake in Friday’s Hearing On The Lolo Pass Megaloads?

The Idaho Transportation Department is set to host a hearing Friday morning about the controversial giant truckloads of refinery equipment that may be hauled over Lolo Pass on the Montana border. Here’s a quick summary of what’s at stake in the hearing. The hearing is principally to consider whether to hold a formal trial, with witnesses, about whether one company, ConocoPhillips, should be allowed to transport four oversized loads of equipment on U.S. Highway 12 from Lewiston to their oil refinery in Billings. The petitioners, three Idaho residents, want the trial to be scheduled. Conoco has entered a response to the residents’ petition asking that no trial be held and the shipments be allowed to proceed. The hearing could go either way, just as the Idaho Supreme Court case could have gone either way, and ended up a 3-2 decision. Read More »

Christo’s Plan for Arkansas River Wrapped in Controversy

In a repurposed garage in Denver’s trendy Lower Downtown neighborhood, the artist Christo stepped up onto the makeshift stage. Across the street in the museum of contemporary art hung sketches from his latest proposed project, Over the River, an ambitious – and highly controversial – work that, if approved, would suspend industrial-strength fabric over Colorado’s Arkansas River. The plan is loved by some and despised by others, but among this crowd of art enthusiasts, Christo, with his mane of untamed silver hair and a rumpled khaki vest and jeans, received a standing ovation before his first slide wheeled around on the carousel projector. Read More »

State Legislature: Why Idaho Won’t Go As District 19 Goes

Idaho, one of the nation’s most proudly red states, has few places where it’s easy to be a Democratic politician. Of 105 seats in the State Legislature, Republicans hold 80. Statewide, the most prominent exception to Republican strength is District 19, which encompasses downtown Boise and neighborhoods along its northern and eastern sides. The executive directors of both the state’s major parties told New West that the district is Idaho’s most powerful Democratic bastion. One of the district’s two House seats opened up after Democrat Anne Pasley-Stuart decided to step. Cherie Buckner-Webb is a big favorite to get the job, although her opponent's no slouch. Jim Morland, a physician who founded and runs a pain center, is a former medical director of the national grocery chain Albertson’s Corporation, for whom he administered an annual budget of about $300 million. Even so, Buckner-Webb, a fifth-generation Idahoan, brings a wealth of administrative skills developed in large local companies and as a small business owner, along with numerous endorsements from groups and businesses, as well as a list of achievements in community activism as long as your arm. Although it hasn't emerged as a focus of the race in a district where words like "diversity" and "tolerance" are the norm, Buckner-Webb would be the first African-American elected to state office in Idaho. Read More »

Representing Idaho: Why the Minnick/Labrador Race Is a Bellwether for the West

Walt Minnick is an outlier: a Democratic member of Congress who might avoid being kicked out of his seat by angry, recession-weary voters. A new poll shows Minnick in the lead -- even though he's an incumbent Democrat in a solidly red state during an election year when that's a formula for defeat. People from both parties say his voting record is about as unassailable as it gets for an Idaho Democrat, and his campaign is flush with money from supporters who want him to keep voting that way. Still, the race tightened last week. His Tea Party-backed opponent, Raul Labrador, has increased his sway with voters; another recent poll showed the candidates in a statistical tie. Election experts are calling the race a toss-up. Money is flowing into the campaigns from surprising sources. And both sides are jockeying for undecided votes by running attack ads -- Minnick implying nefarious deeds by Labrador and Labrador linking Minnick to Pelosi and Obama. "Walt Minnick is flying against a tremendous head wind," one Republican observed. "It may just have to do with people in the middle not knowing what they want, but they're not happy." Read More »

Now Anti-Wolf Groups Are Blowing It

No reasonable deed goes unpunished, eh? That must be how wildlife managers or advocates who actually want to resolve the wolf-delisting impasse must feel. On September 23, I posted a commentary with the title, Pro-Wolf Groups Blew It where I criticized the left-leaning plaintiffs in the various lawsuits for pushing too hard, too long, and turning fence setters and most western politicians into the anti-wolf camp and possibly endangering the integrity of the Endangered Species Act. Now, the pendulum has swung to the far right. Read More »

Political Moderation: A Newfangled Concept in the New West

The Moderate Independent (MI): A rag-tag collection of lethargic naysayers with no passion for any issue; nontraditional ne’er-do-wells challenging the traditional political system; despised by Reds and Blues alike for unwavering indecision; the bane of today’s electoral process. I’ve heard all the stereo-typed descriptions on the major networks, from my friends, neighbors and even family. Yet I remain steadfast in my commitment to be noncommittal. I’m one of a growing number of non-card-carrying centrists who have absolutely no loyalty to either main stream political party. Hi, my name is Clarence and I’m a Moderate Independent. Read More »

Why the Baucus/Tester Wolf Delisting Bill is the Better Choice

The political wrangling over wolves since the latest relisting in August is now in full force. It’s unfortunate that we’ve arrived at a place where the only solution that most Montanans see regarding wolves is political in nature. Looking back over 100 years of wildlife conservation in the state of Montana, political solutions have rarely helped wildlife. In the past, hunter-conservationists struggled mightily to remove political influence from wildlife management, and we were largely successful. The management scenario that was developed, known as the North American Fish and Wildlife Conservation Model, has resulted in the largest rebound in wildlife populations around the globe. This is the model that would be applied to wolves if we could get to a sustainable delisting, and get beyond the pettifogging and the political grandstanding. But for now, we’re at a stalemate. This stalemate has led to congressional efforts to delist wolves: Read More »

NRA Still Getting it Right, Except on Tester

Here's something that isn't news to anybody. The number of guns Americans own has skyrocketed, but how is this significant? An incredible--and later proven unfounded--paranoia swept the country starting back in 2008 when it started to look like a perceived anti-gunner, Barack Obama, might become Commander-in-Chief. The rest of the economy tanked, but thanks to Obama, the gun industry flourished and had its best three-year run ever. Firearms manufacturers worked three shifts per day and still couldn't make enough guns, especially handguns, to meet demand. Not only has the number of handguns owned by private citizens at least doubled, to more than 100 million handguns, about one handgun for every two adults, but sales of long guns and shotguns has also soared. Americans now own at least 250 million guns, more than one per adult, including at least 20 million firearms gun control advocates might call "assault weapons." The number of privately owned firearms continues to go up by at least 4 million per year, and interestingly, many new handgun buyers are women. Read More »