Letters from the West

Trump’s Idaho: Who will the president hire here? How will his decisions change us?

Sen. Mike Crapo, left, and Rep. Raul Labrador talk at the GOP election party Tuesday night. Both easily won re-election and Republicans maintained their control of Congress.
Sen. Mike Crapo, left, and Rep. Raul Labrador talk at the GOP election party Tuesday night. Both easily won re-election and Republicans maintained their control of Congress. kjones@idahostatesman.com

Idaho should prepare for change under President Donald Trump, Trump’s state director for Idaho says.

“We feel like the pendulum swung too far one way,” said Layne Bangerter, “and now the pendulum will swing back.”

Bangerter is on leave from his job on Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo’s staff. He has the ear of Donald Trump Jr., he said, and has helped the son get up to speed on Idaho issues — public land, wildlife and, especially, water issues.

The details, the priorities and the people Trump will pick to carry out his policies in the West remain understandably vague the day after the election.


An incoming president has several presidential appointments in every state that usually go to someone from their party.

Bangerter is unsure what’s next for him personally, but in the past he had sought one of the four federal jobs that presidents fill by appointment: the federal Farm Services Agency state executive director, now held by Mark Samson.

The other three jobs are U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development state director, now held by Wally Hedrick; U.S. Attorney, now Wendy Olson; and U.S. Marshall, now Brian Underwood.


Bangerter expects Trump to push multiple-use policies that will improve management of the state’s 62 percent of land mass that is federal public land.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., offered the same take Wednesday, saying he expects action on the Environmental Protection Agency’s redefinition of “waters of the United States,” which farmers fear will threaten them and their water rights. Ryan also said Trump will end the harassment of ranchers by the Interior Department, and unleash timber workers sidelined by economic or regulatory hurdles.

“There is relief coming,” Ryan said.

It’s still not clear whether that relief will come in settlements with states like Idaho, which is suing over the federal sage grouse plans, or in processes like the Bush administration developed over President Clinton’s roadless rule, which allowed states to accept the limits in their state or develop their own rule, as Idaho did.

Idaho U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, fresh off his own victory and his many stops campaigning in the final weeks for President-elect Trump, told radio audiences in Boise and Idaho Falls Wednesday morning he expects Trump and Congress will repeal and replace Obamacare, and reform taxes and immigration.

“We have such a great opportunity for reform,” Labrador said.


For Sandra Mitchell, executive director of the Idaho Recreation Council, which represents off-road motorized vehicle enthusiasts, Tuesday night reminded her of the sweep that brought Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980 — an observation she shared at the GOP victory party.

“On one side of me, one Trump supporter said, ‘I wasn’t born yet,’ and on the other side, the other one said ‘I was only 4.’ ”

She hopes the new administration looks at reforming the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management from the top down, with fewer mid- and upper-level administrators. She hopes the agencies can find a way to get even more staff on the ground in rural Idaho communities without increasing its cost, through use of technology.

“We need to empower the BLM and the Forest Service so they can get out and manage instead of just fight fires and lawsuits,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell also expects the Trump administration to rewrite many federal regulations, following the model of James Watt, the controversial Interior secretary under Reagan. But those are bad memories for many environmentalists, who saw Watt and EPA Director Ann Gorsuch roll back environmental controls and land protections.

“Donald Trump’s positions and rhetoric on environmental issues are in stark contrast to everything we stand for — and in complete contradiction to the realities of climate science,” said Elizabeth Thompson, president of Environmental Defense Fund Action.

These groups and scientists worry that the head of Trump’s EPA transition team, Myron Ebell, is a long-time climate change denier who already has said he hopes to see Trump roll back regulations and reverse directions from the Obama administration.


Politico reported that Forrest Lucas, a 74-year-old Californian and co-founder of Lucas Oil, is a top contender for Interior secretary. Interior oversees the BLM, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, mining and other federal land and wildlife agencies, and with the agriculture secretary (who oversees the Forest Service) is largely responsible for federal land policy.

Also mentioned as possible Interior appointees: Donald Trump Jr., former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, venture capitalist Robert Grady, who has a home in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and others.

Mitchell expects some Idahoans to end up with lesser posts in Interior and in the White House Office for Environmental Quality. She hopes the Interior secretary comes from the rural West, “someone who has lived there and understands the public land issues.”

Ultimately, she believes the collaborative processes that brought her to the table with timber companies, conservation groups, ranchers and others will continue, because it has worked for all sides.

That’s the message Trout Unlimited CEO and President Chris Wood delivered to his board and other supporters Wednesday. Trump Jr. is a member of Trout Unlimited.

“Conservation — the notion that we can take specific actions today, to make the world a better place for our kids tomorrow — may be the one issue that can help to unite an otherwise divided nation,” said Wood.

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker