Editor’s note: This guest opinion by our senior conservation associate, Jonathan Oppenheimer was published in the Idaho Falls Post Register on April 17, 2016.

On the eve of Earth Day it’s a good time to reflect on how lucky we are to live in the rugged slice of Earth called Idaho.

There’s no place on Earth quite like the Gem State.

As we appreciate the natural wonders around us, we can also recognize our joint responsibility to keep Idaho the way we like it. After all, what happens here is linked directly to what happens beyond our borders.

The first Earth Day occurred in an era when rivers were so polluted with industrial chemicals they were catching fire. In Idaho, we are blessed with rivers that, for the most part, still run clean and cold. But we can also point to Idaho waterways that are seriously degraded-either from the legacy of past abuse or current neglect.

Just this week, newspapers carried stories of how soaring water temperatures literally cooked Sockeye salmon as they were swimming to reach the spawning grounds of Redfish Lake. We’re seeing fire seasons grow longer and more challenging, and farmers struggle to secure water for their crops.

In a landscape with scant rainfall, short growing seasons, fragile soils and a vast expanse of rugged mountains, Idahoans, by their very nature, must be conservative with our shared and limited resources. As Aldo Leopold, wrote in his landmark Sand County Almanac, "Conservation is a state of harmony between man and land."

At the Idaho Conservation League, we recognize the balance between using our resources wisely, while simultaneously respecting the land. More than ever, ICL is rolling up our sleeves and sitting down with diverse partners to address longstanding conflicts. These conflicts have direct impact on Idaho quality of life. But they are all part of a bigger puzzle that extends beyond Idaho as well.

  • Just in Idaho, consumers annually spend $380 million importing dirty, polluting energy, which science has shown is the leading cause of problems like acid rain, childhood asthma and climate change. Instead, we could be investing those dollars at home, growing our economy by building wind, solar and geothermal energy facilities and expanding Idaho’s options for clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  • In Southeast Idaho, we are pleased to be finding common ground with Simplot, Agrium and Monsanto and conservation partner Trout Unlimited to restore water quality and habitat throughout the upper Blackfoot River watershed to help restore Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
  • Across the state, ICL staff and volunteers are active in collaborative efforts addressing issues facing our public lands including habitat restoration, fire risk, recreational access and protecting special places like the Boulder-White Clouds. Working to find common ground with the timber industry, sportsmen and women, community interests and state and federal managers represents a forward-looking strategy that respects our neighbors and preserves Idaho values.
  • As Idaho grows and develops, and as our climate warms, our water sources are under increasing pressure. ICL is working to find paths forward that meets the needs of water users like agricultural irrigators, and maintains the health of our precious rivers.

Not every issue is tailor-made for collaborative solutions, but where it can work, it offers more lasting solutions and flexibility to adapt as threats and challenges evolve.

As was made evident by a recent poll, 93 percent of Idahoans agree that we can have economic development while protecting the environment. Everyday, we’re working to make that idea a reality and invite you to join us.