The Idaho Conservation League does not engage in elections but elections engage us. Elections matter to our work and lives. Elections also are a community activity, and so for a brief time, we are all involved, as a nation, together, even as the results demonstrate how divided our nation is.
Many of you have heard me talk about hope. I often close talks with Wallace Stegner’s phrase that the West is the "native home of hope." I not only believe this, I cherish it. This helps explain the extraordinary work people do to protect these landscapes every day, or the joy we find in going outdoors, and sharing it with family and friends. My work has been immersed in some pretty challenging politics most of my life. Hope has a lot to do with how I get up in the morning. I suffer from hope. I did yesterday, and even if tested a bit last night, I still do.
Wallace Stegner also said we will not have succeeded until "we create a society to match the scenery." This explains much of our challenge, for the work is about people and we have a ways to go before we create that society. But we knew that already. The election just makes the fragmentation of our society all the more obvious and blatant-but that only makes the need for the work focused and urgent.
Idaho has been a crucible for cooking the challenges of our time for many years. We live in a very red, very conservative state. Contributors to the Tuesday electoral maps have been part of the Idaho story for a long time. Idaho’s challenges have long shaped our strategies-and from that there have been not insignificant successes. ICL has some experience getting back up after challenging elections. We have also seen what happens when you rely too much on government solutions not sufficiently supported by people and communities. And we have experience with communities and people fearing for their children’s future. Addressing these issues is very hard. It is very slow. It means working with people who think like us and even more importantly, with those who think differently.
ICL is back at work, creating commonsense conservation solutions that work for people, solutions that work for Idaho, that help, even if only a bit at a time, to create that society to match the scenery. We work this way because this is where enduring solutions are found.
We all learned long ago that a sunset over the Owyhees is as lovely to the rancher as it is to the backpacker. The pull of a cutthroat on the flyline creates both Democratic and Republican smiles. Clean air and water, access to public lands, the autumn echo of a bugling elk. These are Idaho values, and while I won’t pretend it’s easy, there are bridges that can be built and it’s our job to build them. It’s never been more important to build them.
We have a long way to go, but Idaho remains a home of hope. So does America. And today we’re back at work, as we all must be, to create that society to match the scenery.