People are still talking about the defeat of Lenore Hardy Barrett in Idaho’s Republican Primary. She lost to 69-year old rancher Merrill Beyeler of Leadore, a town smaller than even Challis, ID where Barrett lived.

Perhaps too soon, Merrill Beyeler had been declared “as good as elected” in the November general election. It is a heavily Republican district. However, there is a Democrat running against Beyeler.  Jocelyn Plass of Stanley contacted us to point out that she won the Democratic Primary and hopes to the general election. While Challis and Leadore are traditional central Idaho towns subsisting off of ranching and mining (in the mind of residents), Stanley is acknowleged to be an unspoiled town for tourists and outdoor recreation in the highly scenic Sawtooth Valley and adjacent Sawtooth and White Clouds Mountains. Place has been operations manager at KDH consulting, and is very much younger than Beyeler and Barrett. Her online presence gives little in the way of information about her campaign. See her Facebook page.

Beyeler and Abby Lee, who beat powerful state senator Monty Pearce in the Republican primary, do not seem to be confrontational in the way that Barrett was. In the late 1990s, I attended a meeting in Salmon hosted by Senator Mike Crapo devoted to a cooperative approach to solving the RARE 2 roadless area  issue. There had been two previous grueling “consensus” meetings of this committee, one in Pocatello and one in Idaho Falls. Some progress had been made. Barrett single handedly destroyed the Salmon meeting with her name-calling about conservationists. I never participated in any kind of consensus meeting after that. I had been to a number and rarely saw anything but a time sink and anger when they collapsed.

Both Beyeler and Barrett are no friends of wolves. Barrett was notable for her antagonism to them. It is ironic that in the primary Barrett was attacked as being insufficiently militant against wolves. The attack came from the Idaho Prosperity Fund, a PAC for the longstanding, powerful lobby Idaho Association of Commerce and  Industry. Her “wolf weakness” was supposedly due to her voting against the Governor’s wolf control board and fund. Barrett hated wolves, but she always hated spending money even more.

Idaho Statesman’s Rocky Barker has more detail on these two races and more. Two primary winners tout conservation collaboration: Environmental groups celebrate knocking out Pearce and Barrett.

Abbey Lee and Merrill Beyeler are hardly environmentalists, but there is celebration there that these two are now gone. Others too, folks or groups with quite different agendas are celebrating too. Governor Butch Otter had endorsed Abbey Lee.

The group Conservation Voters for Idaho spent $30,000 for Beyeler and $30,000 against Stephen Snedden, a Republican from near the Canadian border in Idaho’s Panhandle area (Sandpoint). Snedden was whopped almost two to one by Heather Scott. The vociferous anti-wolf group Sportsmen for Idaho had taken out glossy ads and radio time for Snedden.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides.

22 Responses to More Lenore Barrett finally bites the dust

  1. avatar Richie G. says:

    Does anybody who is pro wolf have a chance in any Idaho elections ? Just asking , like to see wolves and wildlife in general get a chance to survive.

  2. avatar Richie G. says:

    Just one more thing nobody commented on this article, IMHO this is important.

  3. avatar Ida Lupines says:

    I’m not sure what to say about it – what is worrisome is that as anti as she is, this woman isn’t anti-wolf enough for Idaho, so who will replace her? I can always count on people loving money more than hating wolves and environmentalists, and most times the money wins – but here there are very strong anti-wolf forces at work, whose willful turning away from science and facts seems to override even their opposition to unnecessary bureaucracy and paying taxes!

    • avatar Richie G. says:

      So Ida is this Plass good for wolves in Idaho ? See Idaho worries me more than Montana and Wyoming as an outsider my opinion is small this I know. The anti wolf people still worries me. Can’t help that I still love wolves and wildlife in general.

  4. avatar Tom Page says:

    It’s important to recognize that there are other conservation issues in Idaho besides wolves. Water quantity and ESA-listed fish, sage grouse, public lands management in connection with private ranches…these are all pressing concerns in the Upper Salmon Basin. Right now there’s a lot more political space to talk about these things than space to talk about long-term predator policy in Idaho. On these issues, the political picture is much improved with this election result. Merrell has been a leader (maybe THE leader) on progressive water policy in the region, among other conservation accomplishments.

  5. avatar Richie G. says:

    If their is a water problem why not bring in beavers or more beavers they would help keep the water table steady.

    • avatar Tom Page says:

      Richie –

      Yes, more beavers would be great…but beavers need willows to eat and water in the creeks to live. Right now the beavers are primarily limited to the high tribs due to de-watering and disconnection. The issue is more about trying to come to agreement on ways to increase instream flows, and then using these mechanisms to put water back in the Lemhi, the Pahsimeroi and other larger systems. Putting water back in the stream might be the only issue that creates more animosity in rural Idaho than the wolf thing.

  6. avatar Richie G. says:

    To Mr. Page I do not know what goes on in Idaho this is for sure , so this might be a foolish question, but why bringing water back in streams a big deal for the people of Idaho. Does the water overflow the flood their houses or does it flood their crops ?

  7. avatar Richie G. says:

    should be and flood sorry

  8. avatar Richie G. says:

    I think I understand they need more stream flow to bring the water back to places that are near dry.

  9. avatar Richie G. says:

    I know I am writing too much for an outsider , but building dams then when the water is high enough install flexible piping system under the dams that beavers make them open the pipes and let the water flow. The only thing I can see wrong with this is the timeline, might not be the appropriate time of year.

    • avatar Tom Page says:

      Richie –

      Most of the Upper Salmon (included in Merrell’s district) is very dry country…along with the Owyhee area, some of the driest in the state. The rivers here are over-appropriated, so storage would be a tricky thing to implement. Also, given the relatively few number of people here that might benefit from storage, and the ESA-listed fish issues that would be raised by additional storage projects, it’s probably not our best option.
      Despite this dryness, there are a lot of inefficiencies in the system, and the overall management of water here has room for improvement. Changing the system to allow conserved water, or donated/purchased/leased water to stay instream is slowly happening, but it’s not an easy thing to do in a culture where water is very precious; and the predominant attitude is utilitarian when it comes to natural resources. The same dynamic is often observed in conflicts over grass, wildlife, or fish. We all want healthy range, for example, some just want it more for cows, and some want it more for wild species.

      Idaho law is a reflection of the cultural viewpoint – it allows certain uses or transactions when it comes to natural resources…but primarily only those that support or facilitate agriculture. As a ranch owner, I support agriculture, but I’d like to see laws that allow for more flexibility when it comes to using private resources (water, grazing permits, habitat, etc.) for conservation.

      To Merrell’s great credit, he is one of the ranchers working to allow these changes in water management to occur, where you have willing landowners and agency cooperation. He’s also completed stream reconnection projects and water transactions on his own ranch.

  10. avatar Richie G. says:

    should be then not them

  11. avatar Richie G. says:

    To Mr. Page is Merrell a candidate for water modifications because he has a ranch or would he interject wildlife too. I been to the salmon river by seven devils drive and a place called riggings inn and the town had the white bird battle ,first battle of Nez Perce Indians. This is why I think Idaho had some beautiful country. But is the Idaho candidate willing to have wildlife in it’s state too ? I thank you for answering my questions ,you are a very polite Gentleman and I thank you for answering my question with a large deal of knowledge. I hope the ranchers get what they want, the only concern I have is the hatred against wolves. This seems to me a ingrained attitude going all the way back to our founding fathers. Thank you again for answering me, you are thoughtful.

    • avatar Tom Page says:

      Richie –

      I don’t quite understand your question about Merrell’s candidacy for water modifications and wildlife…maybe you could rephrase it?

  12. avatar Richie G. says:

    Thank you Mr. Page with him being for water conversation does this translate into being more pro wildlife ,including wolves in Idaho?

    • avatar Tom Page says:

      Merrill is definitely more pro-wildlife than Lenore. His ranch is a testament to that. I wouldn’t want to speak for him on the wolf issue, but he’s very focused on finding solutions to the conflicts in the Upper Salmon, which hasn’t generally been Barrett’s way of doing things.

      Honestly, wolves aren’t a big topic of discussion for most ranchers…water, public lands grazing, changes in land use, and sage grouse are higher on the urgency list, I think. Combine that with the difficulty of working with federal agencies and the very complex regulatory structure that we deal with when it comes to making even the smallest changes on the landscape, and you begin to get a sense of the challenge that exists here. Interesting work, to be sure, but not quick and not easy.

  13. avatar Richie G. says:

    Thank you MR. Page I understand government sometimes could make things more complicated, but where I live I find local government the culprit in this. It is hard to change anything where I live, seems they got their hand in their pockets all the time. My next door neighbor built a deck around a tree and everybody had to be notified around him. I told him just build it they would never know, I did not mind it did not hurt me. Thanks again Glad that the people are not against wolves or should say the ranchers are not against wolves, hope most are not against wolves.

  14. avatar Lloyd says:

    Mr. Beyler is currently chairman of the Lemhi Land Trust. One of the primary supporters of the Lemhi Land Trust is the Brainerd Foundation, which is also a strong supporter of the Yukon to Yellowstone Wildlife Corridor(Y 2 Y) and the Migratory High Divide Corridor(M H D). These plans are touted primarily as predatory animal corridors, specifically wolves and grizzly bears. Save yourself a lot of time and search those two plans and the Wildlands Project by name; go to maps and supporters. Search echinococcus granulosos and it’s influence on wildlife. (introduced to Idaho primarily with introduction of Canadian wolves)
    The ranchers in the upper Salmon Basin that have been involved with the Land Trust and the The Nature Conservancy in these conservation efforts have increased their net worth considerably, including Mr. Beyler. (matter of record) These are just a few of the facts involved. Form your own opinion after some thorough research.
    Richie G., if you knew how much resistance there is to water impoundment with dams, you wouldn’t suggest such a thing.

    • avatar Tom Page says:

      Yes, several ranchers in the Upper Salmon, including me and Mr. Beyeler, have voluntarily sold conservation easements on their private lands. These easements are funded from several government sources (not the Brainerd Foundation, although they do support the LRLT, as do I) and are usually held by either the Lemhi Regional Land Trust or The Nature Conservancy. Contrary to your suggestion that these easements are for predator connectivity, the actual reason for the program is endangered chinook salmon and steelhead habitat recovery. The easements often have a water component aimed at improving instream flows in addition to habitat.

      Are you implying that something’s wrong with a voluntary private transaction that helps generate alternative income for a ranch and supports sustainable agriculture in an area that has limited economic options?

      • avatar lloyd jones says:

        Not having visited this website since June, 2014, I just read Tom Page’s response to my comment. No, Tom, I don’t have a problem with ranchers selling their own and their heirs rights on their private property. I said specifically that The Nature Conservancy and the Brainerd Foundation are on the list of supporters of Y 2 Y, M H D and suggested you go to Y 2 Y, M H D sites and look at maps and mission statements to see what their goals are as far as predators. I didn’t mention Salmon Valley Stewardship, which is a spin off of Sonoran Institute, which also support the proposed, and now happening, corridors. Go to maps and see the correlation between these projects and the Wildlands Project, the connection is obvious. Do what you can to protect your ranch, but don’t try to coat your efforts as just trying to save the environment.
        Just last week, Beyler told us at the meet the candidates meeting that no govt or B P A money was involved in his easements. So who is correct, you or Mr Beyler? I would truly enjoy a sit down discussion with anyone on this subject, as I have lots of documents, as well as Beylers deed and conservation agreement, (public info) and mission statements for the above named projects.
        Ignorance can be corrected through education. Self imposed ignorance, through not examining facts, is stupidity. I urge all voters to do the research.
        The director of Lemhi Land Trust, Kristin Troy, told us at a Lemhi County Historical Society meeting, that she didn’t care where the money came from as long as she could spend it the way she wanted to.

    • avatar Richie G. says:

      I really do not know the reason dams are not useful in Idaho, I thought it would be a good way to conserve water.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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