The Idaho Council on Indian Affairs is meeting at the state Capitol this afternoon, with an agenda ranging from an economic impact review, public safety communications and tribal involvement in the Idaho Historical Society’s new museum, to discussion of tribal mascots and murals and instant racing; you can listen live here. The panel, chaired by Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, includes leaders from Idaho’s five recognized tribes, plus state lawmakers and a representative of the governor’s office. “It’s really good to be amongst our other nations here, here at the Capitol in Boise, so thank you,” Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Council sergeant-at-arms Devon Boyer said as the various council members introduced themselves and opened the meeting.
University of Idaho Professor Steven Peterson, speaking by phone, presented his latest study of the economic impact of Idaho’s tribes. That impact is now estimated at $1.1 billion a year, he found, and it’s grown by 88 percent since 2001. “The five tribes of Idaho contribute a substantial amount of economic activity to the state of Idaho, and the impacts have been growing rapidly over the last 15 years,” Peterson told the council. “The impacts actually increased rapidly throughout the recession. So they provide an important diversification to the regional economies and provide an important source of additional resources that are available for attracting and retaining entrepreneurs.”
Idaho’s tribes collectively own just under 1 million acres in the state, he said; they have about 200,000 acres in production agriculture, and significant operations and employment both in tribal government and services, and in tribal enterprises, including seven casinos. They are a significant tourism draw, he found. The casinos alone draw 500,000 visitors a year, about 60 percent of them from out of state, which Peterson said means they’re “bringing new monies to Idaho.”
Peterson, who has conducted several such economic impact studies over the years, said, “Every time I do one of them I think I’m a zero off, the number’s been so big. So it’s been a lot of fun over the years working on these studies and watching the economic growth in the various regions of Idaho that occur.”