Lis­ten­ing to the needs of the states Trump is re­spon­sive in ways Barack Obama was not, and the West­ern sage grouse is the bet­ter for it

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By C.L. “Butch” Ot­ter

It is a great Idaho tra­di­tion to com­plain that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., never lis­tens to the peo­ple of the Gem State. In the case of the greater sage grouse, Pres­i­dent Trump and his team at the Depart­ment of the In­te­rior heard our mes­sage and are fi­nally mak­ing things right for the species and for Ida­hoans. This jour­ney be­gan with an in­vi­ta­tion by for­mer Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ken Salazar and Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice Di­rec­tor Don Ashe to par­tic­i­pate in de­vel­op­ing state-based sage grouse man­age­ment plans in or­der to foil lit­i­ga­tion by en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists to list the bird un­der the En­dan­gered Species Act. It was sug­gested to me and other West­ern gov­er­nors that if we de­vel­oped our plans co­op­er­a­tively with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, we would have the chance to bal­ance the eco­nomic needs of our states with what was needed to con­serve the species.

What hap­pened was the big­gest bait and switch ever ex­e­cuted by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment dur­ing my 12 years as gov­er­nor of Idaho. My man­age­ment plan, af­ter much ne­go­ti­a­tion and sig­nif­i­cant com­pro­mise by Idaho’s reg­u­lated com­mu­nity, was deemed ac­cept­able when the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view be­gan. But when it came time to de­cide on the fi­nal Idaho plan, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion said thanks, but no thanks. To use an anal­ogy, Idaho got an in­vi­ta­tion to the sage grouse Home­com­ing Dance by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, but, af­ter we rented the tux and bought the cor­sage, the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., in­sid­ers at the Depart­ment of the In­te­rior told us sorry, we found a bet­ter date.

We found out af­ter I sued the Obama sd­min­is­tra­tion that Don Ashe took com­plete con­trol of the process, and in­stead of lis­ten­ing to us, he de­cided it was bet­ter to im­pose a na­tional — not Idaho — view of sage grouse con­ser­va­tion. Mr. Ashe also de­cided that mil­lions of new acres of pub­lic lands needed to be with­drawn from rea­son­able use for­ever, even though the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment later said that there was no need to take that much land out of cir­cu­la­tion in or­der to ap­pro­pri­ately ad­dress the habi­tat needs of the bird. Idaho alone had close to 4 mil­lion acres des­ig­nated for with­drawal as “sage­brush fo­cal ar­eas” that showed up at the last minute and had not been openly dis­closed to the pub­lic for com­ment.

When he was elected, Pres­i­dent Trump promised to lis­ten to Idaho and the states. We worked closely with David Bern­hardt and the new team at the Depart­ment of the In­te­rior and, af­ter re­view­ing the ex­ist­ing West­ern state sage grouse plans, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion agreed to work on im­ple­ment­ing my plan, which had been ne­go­ti­ated with the very Ida­hoans who know the most about how to work through these dif­fi­cult is­sues.

I needed some help with a crit­i­cal en­ergy project in Idaho, the Gate­way West Trans­mis­sion line. Deputy Sec­re­tary Bern­hardt again lis­tened to our re­quest for as­sis­tance and was help­ful in re­solv­ing this im­por­tant en­ergy right-of-way is­sue for Idaho. If con­firmed as the new sec­re­tary, Western­ers will be as­sured that David Bern­hardt will be lis­ten­ing.

Mr. Trump also lis­tened to my good friend and fel­low West­ern gov­er­nor, Gary Her­bert of Utah. Mr. Her­bert made a com­pelling case to the pres­i­dent and the Depart­ment of the In­te­rior that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion had over­reached when it des­ig­nated na­tional monuments in his state over the ob­jec­tions of the very Uta­hans who care about their state the most. I was as­ton­ished when the pres­i­dent per­son­ally flew to Salt Lake City and ex­e­cuted the of­fi­cial doc­u­ments in the State Capi­tol ap­pro­pri­ately re­duc­ing the size and scope of the Utah na­tional monuments. He did so be­fore the very peo­ple of Utah who made their voices heard to Pres­i­dent Trump, and by any mea­sure it was an ex­tra­or­di­nary mo­ment from those of us in the West who be­lieve that to the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion, Idaho and Utah were merely “fly over” states.

Those who pre­fer the com­mand-and-con­trol of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., will be dis­ap­pointed with the new Idaho sage grouse plans and are al­ready lit­i­gat­ing over the Utah mon­u­ment des­ig­na­tions. I am cer­tain they will try and find sym­pa­thetic fed­eral judges who agree with their view and chal­lenge the new plans. But some­times things worth hav­ing are worth fight­ing for, so thank you, Pres­i­dent Trump. In the case of Idaho’s sage grouse plan and other im­por­tant West­ern is­sues ne­go­ti­ated in the West by Western­ers, we are in­deed for­tu­nate to have the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on our side when it comes time to go into le­gal bat­tle.

What hap­pened was the big­gest bait and switch ever ex­e­cuted by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment dur­ing my 12 years as gov­er­nor of Idaho.

C.L. “Butch” Ot­ter is the for­mer gov­er­nor of Idaho.

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