This appeared in the Lewiston Tribune:
When Congressman Mike Simpson could not get his Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness package through a gridlocked Congress, critics suggested they had a better idea.
Prevail upon then — President Barack Obama to declare the area a national monument — much as President Teddy Roosevelt had acted to preserve the Grand Canyon or President Franklin Roosevelt had proceeded to protect what eventually became Grand Teton National Park.
At the very least, discussing a national monument provided Simpson with some leverage. The Idaho Republican sought — and got — Obama’s promise to withhold a proclamation while he made one last effort to pass the bill he’d been working on for 15 years. With the help of Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the measure wound up on Obama’s desk for signature two years ago.
Even then, there was talk that Simpson had given up too much. A national monument would have covered at least twice the 275,000 acres Simpson’s measure designated among the 238-square-mile Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness, the 142-square-mile White Clouds Wilderness and the 183-square-mile Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness.
But any monument is subject to shifting regulations, revised management plans and court challenges. An act of Congress is the gold standard. Its provisions are final. You can literally take it to the bank.
Which, at the moment, has to sound pretty good, even to those who were disappointed with Simpson’s product. That’s because every declaration, dating back to President Bill Clinton’s 1996 declaration of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and continuing through Obama’s Bear Ears National Monument just as he was leaving the White House, is under siege.
President Donald Trump has ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to examine those monuments — with an apparent eye toward reduction or recision.
Nowhere in the Antiquities Act will you find authority for a presidential reversal. In fact, FDR’s attorney general concluded his boss could not take that step short of passing an act of Congress.
Congress reiterated that view when it passed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976.
There’s no groundswell of support behind Trump’s apparent drive to open more public lands to natural resource extraction. Quite the contrary. National monuments tend to become more treasured with each passing decade.
Until you get a final court decision, all of this is speculation. But at the very least, this president has invited future whipsawing about monument designations as the White House changes hands between Republicans and Democrats.
All of which could have created political uncertainty on a matter involving general consensus within the Gem State. Never was there any real doubt about Idahoans’ desire to preserve and protect the Boulder-White Clouds. It had been discussed as potential wilderness, even a national park, since the 1970s.
So give credit to those, including Simpson, Risch and Johnson, who spared Idaho from this battle. Trump’s decision to unleash war on Obama’s natural resource policies makes their choice look better all the time.
In a turn of events that should surprise no one, the Pentagon has emerged unscathed in Congress’s budget bill. The only cost of the victory is the credibility of the Defense Department.
The Pentagon received an extra $15 billion in the spending bill that will keep the government open through September. To put it in perspective, that’s 1.5 percent of the pool of about $1 trillion that funds the Pentagon and the rest of the national defense.
Some of the rhetoric from various military leaders and members of Congress, however, seemed to suggest that nothing less than the future of the U.S. military was riding on that 1.5 percent. Top generals and members of the House and Senate armed services committees have been talking about a “readiness crisis” — warning that after 16 years of fighting, both the troops and the equipment they use are badly unprepared to face potential threats from China or Russia.
It’s always easy to cherry-pick a few examples to back up such hyperbolic claims. For instance, a Navy admiral testified that almost two-thirds of the Navy’s fleet of F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet fighters were not combat-ready. This conveniently ignores that the military has long intended to phase out the Hornet, and that the Pentagon in 2015 asked Congress to take away $1.15 billion in planned funding for the newer Super Hornet. Yes, poor planning may have created a temporary shortfall of active planes, but there are plenty of other strike fighters in the military. And Lockheed Martin is churning out next-generation F-35s as fast as possible.
A little perspective — and a little history — shows that military spending is about where it should be. Adjusted for inflation, spending is relatively high. Although it is well below Cold War levels as a share of the gross national product, the U.S. still spends far more on its military, on an annual basis, than the next eight countries combined. More than $100 billion a year goes to acquisitions of planes, ships, guns and the like.
And while the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have indeed taken a toll on the men and women in uniform and the weaponry they depend on, it’s also widely accepted that America has not had so many experienced troops to draw on since World War II.
There are plenty of contentious military issues worth debating: To what extent should research and development on high-tech equipment such as drones and remote-controlled submarines take money away from more traditional hardware? What will it take to create an effective cyberwar service? There are also some actual minor crises, such as a shortage of qualified Air Force pilots.
In addition, Congress and President Donald Trump need to find a way to end the Budget Control Act’s spending caps, which make it very hard for the Pentagon to plan long-term acquisitions. It was encouraging to hear Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, say on Thursday that he would “force” a vote on removing the spending limits. Lawmakers and the administration should also collaborate on a new authorization for the use of military force to put the war against Islamic State on sound legal footing.
But there won’t be intelligent debate on any of these matters — or others that could bring stability to the military in an unstable world — if the only subject of conversation in the Pentagon or Congress is a false “readiness” crisis and histrionic warnings about a “hollow force.”
McCain Foods, one of the nation’s largest french fry producers, dropped a bombshell this week when it announced a $200 million expansion at its Burley plant. The company will add 180 new direct jobs.
Perhaps even more impressive, the increased capabilities at McCain will require another 15,000 acres of potato production in Idaho.
Construction will begin this month, and the expansion should be up and running by the end of next summer.
The project is a huge win for Burley and the Magic Valley, especially for the Mini-Cassia region, which continues to add new jobs and construction at a steady clip.
We’re fortunate to have companies that continue to see the value in this region and its workers.
National Bike Month is this May, and local cyclers plan to host a Ride of Silence on May 17. That deserves a cheer.
But the reason why the ride is needed deserves a jeer. Nearly a thousand cyclists are killed every year on American roadways. In many cases, it’s because motorists aren’t respecting cyclists’ rights to ride on roads.
The Ride of Silence aims to raise awareness that cyclists have legal rights to public roads and to honor the cyclists who have been killed or injured. Learn more about the ride at www.rideofsilence.org.
In the meantime, slow down this summer when you see a cyclist on the road and remember that’s another human being pumping the pedals.
Idaho Gives, the annual one-day statewide charity fundraiser, collected more than $1.2 million Thursday for non-profits across the state.
The program allows donors to earmark their givings for specific groups, so we were surprised to see the organization that collected the most money was Planned Parenthood, at $39,000 from 500 individual donors.
For years, Republican lawmakers have been scheming for ways to defund Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics provide abortions. Clearly, though, a good number of benevolent Idahoans support the group.
Regardless of your political leanings, Idaho Gives is a phenomenal program that does immeasurable good for the state. Thank you, if you took the time to donate on Thursday.
If not, it’s never too late to lend a hand. All the groups that participate in Idaho Gives are eager to take your donations any time of year.
On Monday, May 1, I was working at my desk when I heard a chirping sound a few times, stop, then a minute later would chirp again. I traced it to my carbon monoxide alarm in my residence. I had recently replaced the batteries in it so I knew that was not the problem. Certain things you cannot see or smell so I called our Twin Falls Fire Department.
The gentleman I spoke to on the phone said he would feel better if I would give the OK for some of their men to come here and check it out. I gave that OK. There was no immediate emergency but within 10 minutes some firemen were here. With their detector they went through each room and checked out the furnace and water heater, which were gas. Everything showed OK.
They checked out my carbon monoxide alarm and the chirps it was giving was stated on the back of the alarm that it had reached its end of life and needed to be replaced. That I will do. Our Twin Falls Fire Department helps us citizens in so many ways we don’t thank them enough! They do everything from taking a cat out of a tree to putting their lives on the line on other things. Myself and others I’m sure do not thank them enough for the service they are willing to give. Thank you, thank you.
Terry D. Mullinix
The family would like to publicly thank Senator Crapo’s office and especially Sarha Berry for their assistance in working through an appeal of the denial of medical services for one of our sons. Thank you for the encouragement and strong followup needed by the case. The VA system is difficult to breach at times. Thanks to their efforts, he has received his veterans certification. In addition, thanks go out to staff at several Idaho VA service offices that helped him through the physical and securing medical care. Their efforts to get him into a treatment center has given his family and our large extended family some comfort that he will have an opportunity to change his life around for the better. There are many times when it is too easy to criticize. Veterans have done their duty to our country; and we need to remember not to let them down. Again, thank you Sarha and thank you VA service providers for your help in resolving this matter.
Ron and Gael Black