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Idaho’s state quarter: The Peregrine falcon

Idaho’s own special state quarter, which will come out next summer, will feature a Peregrine falcon, the majestic, speedy raptor that was brought back from the brink of extinction by the Boise-based Peregrine Fund. And the only reason all of us know this today? Tim Woodward. The Idaho Statesman columnist and reporter, whose intrepid reporting on Idaho goings-on has brought things to light for decades in our state, has been following the state quarter saga closely, and he, alone, noticed that the U.S. Treasury had approved Idaho’s design in late June. Woodward contacted Gov. Jim Risch’s office, which the Treasury hadn’t notified. Then, once they confirmed it, he asked to see the quarter. The governor’s office declined, citing plans to unveil it ceremoniously later, so Woodward filed a public records request. That was Thursday, and by law, the governor’s office had three working days to respond. So today, they held a press conference and unveiled the quarter – one day before the deadline to respond to Woodward.

Tim seemed a bit amused by it all – he’s seen it all, when it comes to Idaho politics. Risch acknowledged him at the press conference, saying, “First of all, the reason we’re here today is because of Tim Woodward.” He also thanked the Peregrine Fund for acting quickly to get together an unveiling ceremony complete with a visit from Jess, a 13-year-old Peregrine falcon who lives at the fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey south of Boise, where the unveiling ceremony was held. Trish Nixon, a raptor specialist at the center who brought Jess out on her arm, joked that they’ll be asking for some funding in return.

Dan Harpole, head of the Idaho Commission on the Arts, said the commission got 1,200 suggested designs from all around the state. They came with varying degrees of detail: One was submitted on a cocktail napkin, “saying do something with the fact that Idaho is the home of finger steaks.” Unfamiliar with finger steaks? They’re breaded, deep-fried strips of steak popular at some Idaho bars. The Arts Commission narrowed the recommendations down to 10 finalists, and then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne narrowed that to five. The U.S. Mint worked up design concepts for three of those, and Kempthorne picked the final design in May from among the three. The runners-up featured a scene of mountains in the distance with rolling hills in the foreground; and the outline of the state with the syringa, the state flower, being sniffed by a small monarch butterfly, the state insect, along with words from the state song: “And Here We Have Idaho, Winning Her Way To Fame.”

Nixon, the raptor specialist, said of the Peregrine choice, “I couldn’t be more thrilled. I’m biased, but I can’t think of a better symbol for the state. They’re magnificent.” She noted that Peregrines are highly skilled hunters, are very adaptable, are small but very powerful, and can reach speeds of 240 mph. “They’re a bird to be reckoned with, if you’re another bird out there in the wild,” she said.

Harpole said, “I think as Idahoans we can be really proud of the final product, and really pleased with how it turned out.”

Risch said he just plain hadn’t had a chance to consider the issue, and didn’t know about it until Woodward inquired. “I really can’t say which one I would have chosen,” he said. “Certainly my predecessor had the right and the duty to choose one, and he did.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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