NYT uses Boise to illustrate the recessionary spiral and its aftermath

The importance of this feature article is how irrelevant the governor and the rural dominated legislature are to the economic well being of most Idahoans-

Free Fall’s Over, but Where Are We Landing? By Peter S. Goodman. New York Times.

This article is a bit unusual for this blog, but a continuing theme here is that Idaho politics and its economic policy is dominated by a landed (almost feudal) elite with beliefs that were out of date 50 years ago. Idaho’s political system contains an incredible amount of inertia, and it shows up not just in wildlife policy and politics.

The recession in Idaho’s effect and efforts to fight have depended almost entirely on what the Administration does or doesn’t do. That’s my take.

Ralph Maughan





  1. Brian Ertz Avatar

    think of how much time was spent in the Idaho legislature contriving a way to slaughter bighorn sheep for a handful (4 – 14) sheepman, many of who collect 6 figures a year in direct federal subsidies. all while real people, people who don’t have millions of dollars and big spreads in the backcountry, are suffering

  2. Tilly Avatar

    Not to mention the bill declaring that Idaho is a confederacy.


    The sad thing is that I’m actually happy when the Leg. wastes its time on absurd things like that. Because it keeps them from dealing with anything substantive, which is always a disaster.

  3. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    I will make another shameless plug the only organization in the state that is not only advocating on behalf of environmental issues in the state but also directly involved in holding our elected officials accountable for their environmental record in the legislature:


    If you are fed up with your representation in Boise, please consider supporting CVI. We actively work to elect pro-conservation candidates, something that traditional non-profits are forbidden from engaging in due to tax laws.

  4. Maska Avatar

    I’m not familiar with CVI, but the similar organization, Conservation Voters New Mexico, has been making serious waves in our state. Last election cycle they raised over $111,000 for candidates with good conservation credentials. Their alerts also helped folks defeat some horrible bills and pass some good ones.

    In our county alone, at least three outstanding state legislators were either elected for the first time or re-elected with CVNM’s help. Twice they have helped good candidates defeat long time incumbents–no easy task.

    This didn’t happen overnight, so keep on working and take heart, friends in Idaho. Things can get better.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thanks for the information Matt.

  6. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Maska – sounds like CVI and CVNM are about the same size and on the same track. Change is slow, especially in states like Idaho where the entrenched interests are firmly dug in, but we must try. I’m happy to answer any questions that Idahoans might have about CVI, and we would certainly appreciate any support that people could give.

    I’ll say one other thing: it is often hard to find pro-conservation candidates and even harder to find anything with which to measure legislators in Idaho since so many environmental bills never make it out of committee. Leadership, especially in the House, is not friendly to conservation interests. So if you do decide to check us out, please consider the baseline from which we are starting. The bighorn sheep bills this session are a pretty good example of the problem…

  7. Maska Avatar

    “So if you do decide to check us out, please consider the baseline from which we are starting.”

    Good point, Matt. I think Idaho will be a much tougher nut to crack than New Mexico, but we still have plenty of those “entrenched interrests” here, including numerous politicians of both major parties. Change is a long, slow process, and requires a lot of patience and an ability to derive encouragement from small victories. Good luck!

  8. Brian Ertz Avatar

    we need activists elected to the statehouse – people willing to raise hell on behalf of wildlife – perhaps even work to introduce bills that clearly drive a wedge between the “sportsmen” constituency and the entrenched ranching/ag interests of the state. It’s a clear fault-line that was hit (inadvertently) by the bighorn “Kill Bill” this year. We need to keep pounding those opportunities.

    Unfortunately, the state Democrats are largely uneducated about wildlife & public land issues in the state, probably because of the urban epicenter of their viability in the state – and their generalized want to lick the boots of ranchers & faun over the “custom & culture”.

    While attending the state Democratic Convention as a delegate, I met up with a couple of other conservationists and we had a hell of a time just stripping Blue Ribbon Coalition language off of the platform. Then, I spoke with Minnick – so weak – he better not be getting conservation monies.

    A few of my good friends are staffers for the state party, so when Keith Roark (the chariman of the state party) asked one of them for a ride downtown, I jumped in the car with ’em and had a hell of a conversation – he was trapped 😉 . Roark told me that environmental concerns are to be avoided – the party advises their candidates to stay away from those topics as a poll they had done suggested “environmentalist” to be a bad word and other such nonsense. We arrived back at the state convention and our conversation drew a bit of a crowd. He knew who I was, so he shot off about how WWP & Jon Marvel weren’t helping the (political) cause and about how sometimes Jon tries to be funny – but it isn’t funny – like the time, he said, Jon was asked by a reporter to respond to the allegation that WWP was trying to take ranchers’ livelihood, custom & culture, and Jon was quoted in the paper responding, “We’ll let them keep their music”. Everyone around us laughed, apparently it was funny.

    Unfortunately, the party – and even most groups in the state – are afraid of their own tail. They would befriend the interests responsible and hell-bent on extracting the commercial value right out of our landscapes and waters, with the hope of access and perhaps cultivating table-scraps. I will not be a part of the Idaho Democratic party under these terms.

    We live in Idaho, a place I personally consider to be among the most important public land and wildlife treasures in the world. I grew up here – I remain here because there is not a place in this world that I would rather my children grow. I don’t take my children to church, I take them to Copper Basin, the Big Lost River Range, Craters, PNF, the river … I think there are many people like me. We don’t have representation in this state.

    Matt, the interests are entrenched – disrupting this establishment is the best hope of cultivating change – please be a strong voice at CVI, please insist that strong leaders be favored among campaign contributions.

  9. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Brian, CVI works to elect pro-conservation candidates. We prefer candidates who have an established record rather than ones who make promises of future good works. Importantly, as I mentioned before, we are working within the existing confines of our state’s political spectrum. We are a non-partisan group and we have supported both Democrats and Republicans. We believe that conservation (or environmentalism, if you will) is not a Democratic or Republican value, but one that most Idahoans, regardless of party, embrace. I’d invite you or anyone who reads this message board to please consider joining CVI, as the work that we do directly influences through the electoral process who makes the laws that affect our land and wildlife. No other non-profit in the state is legally allowed to do what we do.

  10. Brian Ertz Avatar

    “we are working within the existing confines of our state’s political spectrum.”

    uh-oh – that’s what politicians say when they sell you out.

    good luck though !

  11. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    How (or where) else would you suggest we do it, Brian? Is there an alternate reality that I’m not aware of? I’d argue that the Legislature is an alternate reality, but we are working to change that. It’s easy to *say* we should elect activists. Reality suggests otherwise. You do realize that it is nearly impossible to introduce pro-conservation/environmental bills given the power structure in the current statehouse, don’t you?

  12. Brian Ertz Avatar


    when the “existing confines of our state’s political spectrum” is the problem, working within can be difficult ~ don’t you think ? i’m sure you know the answer to that better than anyone here.

    I’ve got no qualms with CVI, I think it’s a good idea, though the money goes to some candidates who’ve supported conservation initiatives that are, let’s say – more superficial than substantive – and the reassurances considering the apolitical monies is a good thing – i have not looked into how effective it has been.

    my qualm is with both parties, and with “working with existing confines of our state’s political spectrum” ~ giving crooks money who take the money, but listen to their party who tells them not to be too loud about conservation issues in the state.

    Don’t dilute or sell out principle for access in a state such as this. Raise hell … that’s what I’d suggest –

  13. Brian Ertz Avatar


    i apologize – i am too cynical about the political situation in idaho – it’s good that there are folk who believe in the best of intentions in everyone, like yourself …

  14. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Brian, thanks, but let me be clear, I do not believe in the best intentions of everyone in the Idaho Legislature. That is precisely why I am involved with CVI and why CVI is so important. There are too many people that serve in the legislature who do NOT put the best interest of Idaho first. See aforementioned bighorn sheep bill as example number one.

    I do happen to believe that if we can let more people know how atrocious their representation is AND support *viable* candidates, that we can begin to chip away at make the legislature a more friendly place to conservation/environmental interests. Viable is the key word here – this is still Idaho and change comes slowly.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan