“It’s been over 20 years since I stood at this podium,” former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus declared today as he addressed the House during its “Idaho Day” commemoration – speaking from the same podium at which Idaho governors give their annual State of the State addresses to lawmakers. He joined former Idaho Govs. Jim Risch and Dirk Kempthorne and current Gov. Butch Otter in speaking about what they love about Idaho, and also sharing some reflections and experiences; a statement from former Gov. Phil Batt also was read, by Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder.
Andrus said, “Other than the people … the quality of life in Idaho is outstanding. We’ve got the clear air, the clean water, we’ve got the open spaces … unlike many places in the United States.” He added, “One of the things that I love about this state is the fact that we have millions of acres of public land – now I said public land, not federal land. It’s public land owned by the public, managed by agencies of the federal government, under the rules and regulations that are put down by the Congress of the United States. And those millions of acres contribute tremendously to the economy of the state of Idaho.”
Andrus said, “Now I know there are people in this state and in this room today, and in other areas across America, where a few of them are saying that the title of those lands should go to the states. Ladies and gentlemen, that would be a devastating, ridiculous move that cannot happen, will not happen, because it would take congressional action, and believe me, I’ve been around long enough to tell you that the Congress of the United States is not going to permit that to happen.”
The four-term Idaho governor and former U.S. Secretary of the Interior said, “I love those lands, and I want to see them continue so that my children, my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren and their children have the same opportunity to benefit from those lands as I do today.”
Former Gov. Jim Risch, now a second-term U.S. senator from Idaho, responded to Andrus when it was his turn to speak. “Cece, since you’ve opened this up about our federal lands, there isn’t any Idahoan that isn’t incredibly proud of our scenery and our magnificent public lands,” he said. “Although you and I don’t always agree, I will agree with you on this, and that is that the United States Congress is not going to part with title to that property.”
“Having said that,” Risch said, “these lands lie within the bounds of the sovereign state of Idaho, and as such this sovereign state should have, has had and will continue to have some say in how these lands are managed.” He pointed to the roadless rule developed when he was governor, which applies to 9.2 million acres of roadless public lands. “We did that. We did that collaboratively,” Risch said. “It was a rule written by Idahoans. … That’s the way to do it.”
Kempthorne paid tribute to an array of Idaho leaders, and also to Idaho’s young people, military members and children. “I remember it was in Cocolalla that the children discovered there was not a state fruit, so they determined it should be the huckleberry,” he said. “I took the legislation to Cocolalla and I signed it in front of those children. One hundred children in that gymnasium that day, all wearing shades of purple ... stood and sang, ‘Here We Have Idaho.’”
“We celebrate many things here in this magnificent state of Idaho,” Kempthorne said, recalling images from around the state and its many cultures, from the Native American tribes to Idaho Basques. “Everything that we do, from our children to our citizens to our troops … Idaho is exemplary,” said the two-term governor, who also served as U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President George W. Bush. “This citizen legislature has it right. You go home after the session and you live in your hometowns the majority of the year under the laws you prescribe for all of us. That’s as it should be. … Idaho does it as it should be done.”
Batt, in the statement read by the representative who is married to his cousin, said, “Idaho is one of the best models of an ideal free-enterprise state abounding with water, timber and mineral wealth, providing her citizens with many opportunities for livelihood and enjoyment. … I was born in Idaho 89 years ago today, and except for a brief time away in the military, have lived here all my life. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Idaho is one of the brightest stars in these United States. Let’s keep it that way.”
Otter shared some of his personal stories, including attending 15 different schools between the first grade and high school graduation as his parents moved from one Idaho community to another. “I got to know a lot of people, and I got in a lot of fights because I was the new kid on the block,” he said. During World War II, he said, his father was exempt from the draft because he had six children, but “they did ask that he join the fight from the home front,” so he went to work at various Army bases as an apprentice. Otter said for him, Idaho is “rich with the value of my own family,” and all Idaho families.
He recalled the 9/11 attacks, when he was serving in Congress and saw the smoke plume from the attack on the Pentagon. “There was pandemonium on the Hill,” he said. But, he said, “We dried our tears, we healed our wounds, and we said we weren’t going to let this happen again, and in fact we haven’t.”
Otter recalled his varying roles in state government, from serving as a high school page to serving as lieutenant governor to multiple governors, a role in which he often was asked to address freshmen legislators as they started their terms. He said he always reminded them that each of them represented tens of thousands of people in their districts. “So be bold,” he said. “When you need to make a statement on an issue, don’t be bashful about it – be bold.”