If you haven’t heard, there will be a major eclipse crossing Idaho on Aug. 21. The last time this country experienced an eclipse of this magnitude was in 1918. World War I was months from ending and the Forest Service was a mere 15 years old.
Ninety-nine years later, the Forest Service is still around, managing vast lands in Idaho that make the perfect backdrop for watching the eclipse.
The central Idaho town of Stanley is preparing for 30,000 visitors, as the valley will be an exquisite place to watch the event with the breathtaking Sawtooth Mountains in the background. At the Redfish Lake Lodge, just south of Stanley, the first eclipse reservations were made 12 years ago — in 2005. And despite increased prices and a minimum stay of four nights, the place is completely sold out.
People from around the world are being drawn to the Sawtooths to see a tremendous celestial event the same way we’re drawn to a fine wine with a gourmet dinner or a micro-brew beer with a plate of hot wings (whichever your pleasure).
The pairing of a full eclipse with America’s wild, iconic, publicly owned landscapes is natural. Both stir similar feelings of awe and wonder. Both ignite our imagination. Both make us feel small while making the experiences of life feel enormous.
But there is a difference. Eclipses are fleeting while our public lands are constant. Eclipses happen, though rarely, no matter what politicians do. Yet our public lands are dependent on the policies made by politicians, many of whom are hostile to those lands.
Since the last time a total eclipse of the sun crossed our great nation, Americans have fended off several attempts to liquidate our public lands, and we may be on the back end of the latest attempt. If we have indeed won, we’ve proven this generation’s tenacity. A tenacity learned through our parents and grandparents.
Now it’s time for us to teach that tenacity and our love of America’s public lands to the next generations so when when the politicians and special interests come for our lands again, our scions will repeat our success.
If we do our job right, the next time a total eclipse happens in Idaho — in 2169 — our public lands will still be here as legacies of our hard work and determination.
Courtney Washburn is the executive director of Conservation Voters for Idaho, which is dedicated to protecting our public lands for future generations and works to elect pro-conservation candidates from both parties.