A couple of years ago, I was asked to make comments to congressmen at a public hearing in Bonners Ferry regarding a proposed wilderness bill. The bill would have locked up thousands of acres of land by designating them as wilderness. Logging, and some recreational activities, would have been prohibited.
The bill was supposed to contain provisions to retrain members of the community who were involved in the timber industries, such as loggers, mill workers and road builders.
I wanted to impress upon the congressmen that retraining timber workers to work in the service industry (one of the few left in Boundary and Bonner Counties) was not a simple matter. Many of them would have to leave the community for the retraining and jobs, and that would mean leaving their relatives, friends and the place where they were born and raised.
When my turn came to speak, I said: “I mean no offense to you gentlemen, but how would you feel if on your return to Washington you were told there are too many senators and congressmen, so therefore the three of you have to be retrained as tour guides in Washington, D.C.?”
I reminded them that the jobs they were doing in Washington were necessary and vital, and the same held true for those citizens involved in the timber industry.
Part of my dissatisfaction with the federal government these days is due to what’s happening with the timber industry and the Endangered Species Act. Congressmen in the Eastern part of the United States don’t have a clue as to the problems that current laws, policies, rules and regulations cause our community, state of Idaho and the entire Northwest. (Most of our Western representatives do understand the damage to our economy.)
Another part of my dissatisfaction stems from the arrogant attitude I saw on the part of federal authorities during Ruby Ridge. I was county commissioner at the time, and the officials regarded us as a hick town. Basically they conveyed the message that we were not needed, not wanted, and they were not going to take advantage of any expertise available in the community.
Despite my frustrations with federal government, I will continue to stay involved in the future of our communities. I have confidence that our leaders will make the necessary changes that will again make our government user-friendly as it once was.
Finally, I would encourage members of Congress and the heads of different agencies to listen to community members. We might just know the answers you are looking for.