I first fished the Boise River in 1957 when I was 2, with my granddad’s arm around me. I learned early on that to fish is to be ever hopeful, especially in Idaho, which was to my granddad “the last great place,” coming as he did from the “hot country,” Oklahoma, in 1955. This plan to place federal land in the hands of states does not in any way make me feel hopeful.
Cautionary tale: As a young man, I was extraordinarily lucky to have spent 10 seasons as a fishing guide in the Katmai and Lake Clark areas of Alaska, a place so pristine it defies imagination. Each year tens of millions of salmon, five species in total, pour into the spawning streams of Bristol Bay, turning them a solid crimson. In this area that remains the way God made it came a reckless plan by a foreign company to mine gold smack in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, and to create massive toxic sludge ponds 3 miles wide. Because the Pebble mine site was on state land, Gov. Sarah Palin attempted to fast-track its approval, endangering what is the most intact and productive salmon fishery in the world.
Fortunately, this pending desecration was stopped by an injunction by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2014. I walked these rivers for years. I know every inch of these rivers. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a sacred place. It would have been an abomination, one happily, joyfully perpetrated by state officials.
And what’s to keep Idaho from effectively turning over our public lands to billionaires, so that when I want to go Chukar hunting in the Owyhees, I have to go on bended knee and beg permission from the lord of the manor?
When Cortez came to Mexico in 1520, the Aztecs noticed a peculiar insatiable fever that came on when they gave the conquistadors gold. They actually believed that the Spaniards had a serious physical illness that could be treated only by acquisition of more and more gold. Everything of value in the world can’t be reduced to the almighty dollar or ounce of gold or 30 pieces of silver.
Ostensibly about state control, this venal move commoditizing our public lands is undoubtedly a fatal illness. When a rat steals a cookie, it takes the first bite, but it wants the whole cookie; that is the nature of a rat. The rats are the special interests and their lackeys, like Idaho elected officials who want to plunder the people’s land, returning all federal land to state control.
I own nine guns and hunt and fish and hike all over our great state. Though I am only one person, there are hundreds of thousands like me who will fight this plan because Idaho needs to remain the “last great place.”
Scott Cook, of Boise, has fished the lakes and streams on Idaho’s federal lands with his family for 60 years.
Public Lands Rally
Where: Idaho State Capitol, south steps
When: Saturday, March 4
Time: 11 a.m.
For more information, call Rob Thornberry at (208) 569-8032. Information is also available at www.facebook.com/Idahoansforpubliclands