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This was the busiest week of the Idaho Legislature so far. Several troubling bills were introduced dealing with public lands, suction dredge mining, oil and gas drilling, and wildlife.

Plus, the Senate Education Committee put the final nail in the coffin for revised science standards. Members are concerned over “controversial theories” like the big bang, formation of the solar system, the age of the earth, and climate change.

Public Lands Are Not a Nuisance

Contrary to Sen. Sherry Nuxoll’s (R-Cottonwood) proposal, public lands are a tremendous asset to Idaho, contributing to the vitality of our communities. This proposal, taken verbatim from the industry-sponsored front group known as ALEC,
would allow counties to declare public lands a nuisance, demand a plan  from land managers to abate the nuisance, and “pursue all remedies  allowed by law.” Nuxoll’s proposal represents another disappointing attempt to seize control of Idaho’s treasured public lands.

Improving an Oil and Gas Industry Bill

The oil and gas industry presented legislation Monday to change procedures for drilling permit applications, integration orders and appeals. ICL is concerned about the constricted timelines for considering permit applications. The bill is undergoing changes and will be replaced. So we’re witholding judgment and working with bill sponsors to improve it.

There’s Gold in Them That Rivers

Thursday, Rep. Paul Shepherd (R-Riggins) proposed opening tens of  thousands of miles of streams to unregulated dredge mining. He wants to  allow larger dredges that could discharge 20 times the sediment and riverbed material allowed now.

In fact, the bill would authorize the equivalent of four commercial dump truck loads of sediment, per day, to be spewed into Idaho’s streams without any state oversight. When asked about eliminating state permitting, Shepherd said, “I guess I won’t be able to answer that…” But the bill was printed and will undergo a full committee hearing.

Wolf Control Board Dodges Questions, Seeks $$

Wolf Control Board Chair Richard Savage asked the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee for an additional $400,000 for fiscal year 2017.

While members of the board were testifying, helicopters in the upper Clearwater region were targeting wolves  to boost elk numbers. When asked about the cost per wolf, Savage  deflected questions to USDA Wildlife Services Director Todd Grimm, who  also refused to answer.

Sen. Shawn Keough (R-Sandpoint) called the refusal to answer “disturbing,” noting that it undermines the credibility of government from “top to bottom.”

Tie of the Week!

The discovery of gold in Idaho’s Clearwater basin in 1860 set off a frenzy.  As miners explored other parts of the state, the boom-bust cycle saw  communities like Wallace, Elk City, Florence, Idaho City and Silver City  explode into small cities.

The legacy left by gold and silver mining is still seen today since mining remains the #1 toxic polluter in America.

This week’s TOTW   is a nod to the voters of Idaho who overwhelmingly established that “clean water in the streams of Idaho is in the public interest.” After all, some things are more precious than gold.

Until next week. Esto perpetua…