President Donald Trump’s heads of the departments of Agriculture and Interior were ambassadors of cooperation when they were here June 2 during their whirlwind trip to Boise. We hope that is their model for the future.
Their visit was a success for Idaho, the federal government and the joint management interests of the vast and revered public lands within our borders and throughout the West.
For Idaho to establish a personal and professional dialogue with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at an early stage in the administration is a great foundation for collaboration. To have both show up at the same time and the same place shows forethought and sincerity.
Many in Idaho — including some of us — were guarded about what Team Trump would have to say. Some conservationists expressed concerns before the Boise forums in guest opinions in the Idaho Statesman. Others were waiting to hear, in person, whether the cabinet members would create divisions or a new chapter in the charter of partnership.
Perdue puts some people on edge when he repeats his chorus that “it’s time we started looking at forests as crops.” We appreciated Perdue’s guest opinion about “balancing” forest management and hope to see him qualify the “crop” notion with the emphasis on multiple use of our federal lands. Our forests are much, much more than a commodity. They are habitat for wildlife and watersheds, they are preferred recreational destinations, they are the heart of Idaho’s tourism economy. They are treasures and, for many Idahoans, the very reason we call Idaho home.
We appreciate Perdue’s zest for collaborative management and the value of the full circle of stakeholders. We will hold him to that commitment to collaboration when sticky matters affecting public lands show up on the radar.
Zinke, in particular, scored points by reaffirming that he has no time for the “transfer of public lands” drama that has distracted the West in recent years. That means energy and resources can be redeployed to the other areas on Zinke’s agenda: restoring trust, rebuilding infrastructure, improving employee morale and relations with the public.
We will watch closely as Zinke approaches the pragmatic evaluation of sage grouse habitat, grazing rights, energy licensing and, yes, the assessment of national monuments ordered by his boss.
We’re encouraged Zinke is not looking to pick a fight over the status of Craters of the Moon National Monument. Under Trump’s Executive Order 13292, Zinke will examine monuments of 100,000 acres or more that were designated since Jan. 1, 1996. Public comment is being accepted through July 10. As Congressman Mike Simpson wrote to Zinke, Idahoans came together to find rules and management for Craters that works for our state.
The Cabinet members’ Idaho visit left a good taste among almost all of the interest groups here, and we hope the assessment of national monuments in the West will be conducted in the same manner.
No U.S. president has ever tried to rescind or substantially alter a monument designation made by another president. We hope that any such step would occur only in the rarest of circumstances.
Courts can reverse long-standing judicial precedent, and the current Congress should not be able to bind a future Congress. Flexibility and respect for precedent are both values our country honors. Changes to monuments should happen only after the most careful review and exhaustive efforts to discern local public opinion.
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