Gov. Phil Batt called on Republicans Friday to embrace environmental protection.
“I have always said within the party that we should not give this issue away to the other side,” the former state party chairman said. “We are all conservationists, we are all environmentalists. It’s a matter of how wisely you apply it.”
Batt, who made the comments during the taping of KTVB-TV’s “Viewpoint” program, said, “I think Republicans in general apply it in a more sensible fashion, that is, they realize that we still have to use our resources to make a living on. That does not mean that we want them degraded, however, and I don’t think it’s the other side’s issue, necessarily.”
Batt’s comments came after he unveiled plans to promote the state Division of Environmental Quality to full department status, and to press for “Outstanding Resource Waters” designation for segments of two pristine Idaho rivers.
State Democratic Party executive director Karen White said, “I think it’s commendable that he thinks it is an issue for both parties, but that has not been the way it has worked in the past.”
“Both the Congress-people and typically the legislators who are Republicans have not been on the side of the environment in this state, and most people who live in Idaho live here because they want a good quality of life,” White said.
Batt said, “I’ve never been able to understand why people of conservative values think that the environmental areas are not their concern. We’re conservative. That means we conserve. Farmers were the original conservationists, and they are someone who is affected by this.” Batt is an onion farmer.
“I think that we are all interested in protecting our environment,” he said. “We know that we have to use these resources to make a living. In Idaho, they’re extremely important to protect the jobs and so on. It’s also important that we have clean water and air, and I think we all agree to that.”
He called his Outstanding Resource Waters proposal “more symbolic than anything else.”
With Idaho under court order to clean up hundreds of streams, he said, the state should make sure it is recognized for its streams that are already pristine.
“These are already clean, so I think we should say so, be sure they aren’t degraded.”
“But those who fear that this means that I’m gonna shut down all the roads and that type of thing I don’t think are right. I don’t see this as necessarily impeding anybody. Maybe some outfitters and guides might be a little more careful, but these are wilderness areas.”
“These streams are unpolluted, and I think we should recognize that,” Batt said.
Also during the taping, Batt said:
He recognizes that most Idaho Indian tribes have no incentive to agree to his request that they submit to a court ruling on whether their gambling machines are legal. But, he said, “There is (incentive) for the Sho-Bans, who do not have a compact at this point. In order to get a compact, they have to clarify what the law is, and they may agree to a federal court action. I think if that were the case, it would be definitive for all of them.”
For North Idaho tribes, he said, “As long as the federal attorney’s office leaves them alone, I guess the status quo does exist up there.”
Batt said he thinks Congress eventually will clarifly what’s appropriate as far as tribal gaming.
The reason he didn’t address the issue of abortion in his State of the State message this year, or any other year, is “because I think there’s little to be gained by further discussion of it.”
The last time the Legislature addressed abortion in 1990, Republicans lost seats, he noted.
“There were a number of things which changed the political makeup of the Legislature there quite abruptly for a year or two, and I think that the abortion discussions were part of that.”
He hopes the 1,250-bed prison Idaho has in the works will be “the last we’ll have to build for a good many years. I hope it’s the last one ever.”
Everyone would like prison costs to be lower, he said, but most people are willing to pay to keep dangerous people away from society.