Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's testifies On The "Evolving West"

By Governor Butch Otter
as printed in eco-logic/Powerhouse magazine

March 02, 2007

The following is Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's submitted statement from today's hearing by the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee on the "Evolving West," February 28, 2007. Gov. Otter was a senior Member of the Resources Committee prior to being elected Governor of Idaho in November 2006.

"On behalf of the State of Idaho, and the people who value our lifestyle and their traditional resource-based livelihoods, thank you for the opportunity to enter a statement into the record for this hearing on the 'Evolving West'.

"It's important to put 'evolving' in context. The usual connotation evokes gradual change resulting from natural influences of environment and circumstance. However, there is nothing gradual or natural about change in the West.

"Most of the challenges facing such resource industries as agriculture, timber and mining in Idaho and throughout the West are the result of federal government policies that unreasonably restrict access, over-regulate activity and discourage sustainable growth.

"From neglectful absentee land management that supplants local stewardship to on-the-ground environmental myopia, federal programs routinely provide disincentives to progressive collaboration. In a single generation they have changed much of the West from America's gilded hope for independence and self-sufficiency to a gelded collection of servile sycophants hopeful only for another round of government largesse.

Some Propose A "New West" That Relegates Resource Industries To The Status Of Historical Relics

"Now some promote a 'New West' that relegates resource industries to the status of historical relics. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy from those who urge even more federal control over our region's resources in the name of environmental urgency or modern realities. They blithely, yet earnestly, disregard the real people and real communities that were established and nurtured by previous pendulum swings in national priorities.

"Make no mistake: Tourism, technology and even service are important and growing segments of our economy. They are adding to the diversity and vitality of Idaho and the West. However, they are no panacea for a region inhabited by people who have a special connection with the land, who understand their responsibility to it, and who still value self-reliance and individualism.

"About 10 percent of Idaho's 1.4 million residents work in the forests, fields and on the land. The combined industries generate nearly $10 billion a year in receipts. The residual impact generates thousands more jobs and additional billions of dollars.

"As a member of Congress representing Idaho's lst District, and now as Idaho's Governor, I see, hear and experience the resilience of people struggling to maintain their livelihood in resource-based industries every day. These citizens work through burdensome policies and regulations to provide for their families, support their communities and provide valuable products for U.S. citizens and the world.

"Eighty-eight percent of Idaho is rural. About 63 percent of our landmass is controlled by the federal government. As a result, and to far too great a degree, we are not the architects of our own destiny. Yet the rugged geography and great size of Idaho - the ironically complementary qualities of remoteness and community - still draw people here.

"Those people have used their ingenuity and resourcefulness to supply timber, food and a host of value-added products to the world. And our potential is far greater. If given the opportunity by our federal landlords, the people of Idaho could contribute mightily toward meeting America's future energy needs with home-grown, clean-burning renewable fuels found here in the 'Evolving West'.

Natural Resource Workers Are Conscientious Stewards & Wisely Manage The Resources For All To Enjoy

"Natural resource industries still provide some of the highest-paying jobs in our state. Counties with healthy timber, mining and agriculture operations have the highest per-capita income. The people working in these industries are conscientious stewards of the resources - relying on sound science and state-of-the-art technology to protect and wisely manage the natural resources for all to enjoy.

"Viewing natural resource industries as 'extractive' or 'consumptive' gives unjustified short shrift to what made - and still makes - the West a dreamscape of opportunity and hope for people around the world.

"The entrepreneurs, workers and families who devote their lives to agriculture, timber and mining have 'evolved' with the landscape and the marketplace for generations. Such challenges as energy and transportation costs and reliability are changing their world at this moment.

"But those are market-driven changes - issues of supply, demand and geography. Our people, and our way of life, deserve better than to have our government further 'evolve' them out of existence.

"Once again, thank you for this opportunity to address the topic of this hearing. Please accept my warmest personal regards and best wishes for a successful 110th Congress."


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