So far over 400 measures have been introduced during the 2024 Legislative Session and only one has been signed by Governor Little. To say they have an aggressive schedule laid out before them would be an understatement.

The big news this week was the Idaho Senate finally considered the proposed Pesticide Manufacturers Immunity Bill. Consideration of the bill was delayed for several days as sponsors sought additional support, but when the moment arrived, their efforts turned out to be insufficient as the bill was rejected on a 19-15 vote

Senators from both parties testified against the bill. Sen. James Ruchti (D-Pocatello) shared a letter of concern from a former NFL player who is part of a class action lawsuit against a pesticide manufacturer, and Sen. Tammy Nichols (R-Middleton) pointed out that ChemChina, a Chinese state-owned pesticide company, would receive a get-out-of-jail-free card should the bill become law. ChemChina is on a US Department of Defense naughty list because of their ties to China’s People’s Liberation Army. 

Several resolutions and memorials, which are non-binding statements of the legislature, were introduced in opposition to the Bureau of Land Management’s Public Lands Rule along with another that discourages any efforts to breach the lower Snake River dams. ICL opposes both.

Despite the “coup d’JFAC” (the budget-setting committee) that occurred a couple weeks ago, budgets are moving forward in the segmented Maintenance Budget v. New Items approach preferred by JFAC Chairs and House Speaker Rep. Mike Moyle (R-Star). Despite its intent to be more efficient, it sure seems to have slowed down the process.

Finally, a bill that ICL supports, which would compensate livestock owners for losses to grizzly bears and wolves, received strong support in committee from all who testified, including ranchers, the Idaho Farm Bureau, Idaho Cattle Association, and others. Unfortunately, vague concerns from a few representatives were enough to derail the measure and it was held in the House Resources Committee. Sponsor Jerald Raymond (R-Menan) made some tweaks and brought back a revised version today, which ICL and others are reviewing. 

But wait, there’s more to tell…

An air tractor spraying pesticide. USFS photo.

Pesticide Bill sputters in Senate

Although we coordinated and engaged a coalition of interests including farmworker advocates, trial lawyers, and Idahoans who have been impacted by pesticides, we still didn’t know whether it would be enough to defeat a bill that proposed sweeping immunity for pesticide manufacturers

Even after hundreds of you took action to contact their Senators and Representatives in opposition to the bill, we were up against powerful interests, including multinational pesticide manufacturers, mining interests, and agricultural powerhouses who tend to get their way in the Idaho Statehouse.

Regardless, we felt we had a chance. And we were right. 

As the roll was called, I thought we were going to come up a couple votes short, but in the end line-straddling Senators, thankfully, broke in our favor.

It’s not the end of the line. We expect those same powerful interests to try again, and have already heard there’s another version drafted. Billions of dollars are on the line for them, but so too are health and justice for farmworkers and all Idahoans.

A salmon attempts to clear a waterfall.

On the menu: Salmon, Griz, Wolves, and Public Land Conservation

Last week, several non-binding memorials and resolutions were introduced. They’re statements of opinion from the legislature that are then transmitted to the President, Speaker of the House, and President of the Senate. Where these ‘memorials’ go in Washington, DC is a different story that former Lewiston Tribune reporter Bill Spence looked into a decade ago).

The first, introduced by Sen. Van Burtenshaw (R-Terreton), declares Idaho’s support, yet again, for the four lower Snake River dams located downstream in Washington state. It promotes maintenance of these federal dams at the expense of wild salmon, steelhead, and other native fish using inaccurate information about the dams and the recent Snake River Agreement announced in December 2023.

Many of the arguments made by the memorial are misleading and inaccurate. It claims the dams produce more power than they do. It claims the legal negotiations between the White House, Tribes, conservationists, and the states of Oregon and Washington should have been open to the public, but this isn’t the way litigation works. And finally, it misleadingly attributes salmon and steelhead declines to “many factors,” when independent and federal studies show that dam-related mortality is the leading factor in the salmon’s decline. You can take a stand for salmon by taking action below, and urging your legislators to vote NO on SJM 103!


Over on the the other side of the rotunda, Rep. Megan Blanksma (R-Hammett) introduced a memorial in opposition to the the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) proposed Public Lands Rule, which places priorities, including conservation, cultural land protection, access to nature, renewable energy, and climate change mitigation, on an equal footing with extractive activities, such as grazing and oil and gas leasing. 

This memorial, too, relies on misinformation including suggestions that the rule is illegal. To the contrary, the proposed rule is fully consistent with the BLM’s multiple use mandate. And the BLM clearly asserts that valid existing extractive rights will be unaffected by the rule, so fears that this will end grazing, mining, or other extractive uses are also misplaced. Finally, opponents suggest that the proposed rule was rushed through without public input. In fact, the BLM provided a 75-day public comment period which included three in-person meetings and two virtual meetings. An overwhelming 92% of the comments submitted during this process were in support of the proposed rule. 

And to top it all off, the House Resources Committee heard Rep. Jerald Raymond’s (R-Menan) bill to authorize money to compensate livestock owners for losses attributed to grizzly bears and wolves, and to provide for conflict prevention efforts. All the testimony from ranchers and agricultural interests favored the bill, but concerns from legislators, notably Rep. Judy Boyle (R-Middleton) and Megan Blanksma (R-Hammett) resulted in the bill being held in committee. The sponsor introduced a revised version this morning.

Invasive Quagga mussels. ISDA photo.

A tale of two invasives

This week the legislature allocated $6.6 million (plus an additional $5 million for an emergency fund) for quagga mussel prevention efforts for the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) to respond to this aggressive invasive species that turned up in the Snake River last fall.

ISDA Director Chanel Tewalt presented on the monumental response effort that included over a dozen federal and state agencies, ultimately resulting in control efforts being implemented within days of the discovery of the mussels. 

On the flip side, when it was discovered that 153 Chronic Wasting Disease-infected elk may have been imported onto two private elk farms, it took the same agency over two months to visit one of the facilities near Blackfoot. Now, four months later, the Quarantine Agreement between ISDA and the largest elk farmer in the state remains unsigned.

To boot, Rep. Jerald Raymond (R-Menan) introduced a new version of his Elk Farm Bill that ICL and others fear would weaken rules and remove ISDA’s flexibility to manage this disease, which threatens both wild and farmed elk. 

Still, it begs the question…why is there such a difference in response to these two invaders that threaten our waters, fish, and wildlife?

When I say I love you, You say UPEPA! UPEPAUPEPAUPEP!

The Uniform Public Expression Protection Act (UPEPA) was introduced by Sen. Brian Lenney (R-Nampa) and Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard). It’s a good bill that would provide a legal framework to safeguard individuals’ right to freedom of speech and expression in public spaces. 

The bill aims to protect these fundamental rights by preventing Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (known as SLAPP suits). As described by the Uniform Law Commission, “a SLAPP may be filed as a defamation, invasion of privacy, nuisance, or other type of claim, but its real purpose is to silence and intimidate the defendant from engaging in constitutionally protected activities, such as free speech.”

The most recent example in Idaho has sapped time and energy from lifetime public servants whose only crime was speaking up on a cause they believe in. Their case was filed two years ago, and is currently in the Idaho Supreme Court.

It’s past time that Idaho had an anti-SLAPP suit bill on the books.

Tie of the week!

I don’t technically have a “Happy Tie” as I fear it might jinx things. So when I was looking for a tie to wear this week, this is what flitted my way. Plus, pesticides have been linked to declines in Monarch butterflies and other native species. We also recently visited with the Nez Perce Tribe, who come from Lapwai, which means “Land of the Butterflies.” Finally, we are continuing to see hotter than usual temps (both inside and outside the Statehouse), which is a sure sign that a spring thaw and hopefully butterflies, are on their way!


Until next week…Esto Perpetua,