January 16, 2009

Our View: Perseverance pays off on wilderness protection
Idaho Statesman, editorial

Rocky Barker - rbarker@idahostatesman.com

Collaborative consensus-building has many virtues. Speed is not among them.

When collaboration yields results, it is almost always long overdue. That was certainly true Thursday, when the Senate passed an Owyhee Canyonlands wilderness bill.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, began working on this issue in 2001, holding together an unlikely yet determined coalition of ranchers, environmentalists and local officials. The group set aside their differences and focused on a common aim: protecting the environment and the economy of Owyhee County.

The Owyhees bill was part of larger public lands bill that overwhelmingly passed the Senate. House passage appears imminent.

True to his personality - and true to the process he started - Crapo praised the working group. But Crapo deserves a lot of credit, and, fittingly enough, it came Thursday from a variety of quarters.

"We never would have gotten this far without Sen. Crapo," said Craig Gehrke, the Wilderness Society's Idaho regional director and a longtime supporter of the bill.

"(Crapo) has put in an enormous amount of effort working with a wide variety of local citizens, elected officials and interest groups in creating consensus on this legislation," said fellow Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho.

Risch voted twice to advance the bill - first on a procedural measure, then on Senate passage. It was a promising start to Risch's Senate career.

For Crapo, meanwhile, Thursday marked a milestone on an eight-year marathon.

Rocky Barker - rbarker@idahostatesman.com
Edition Date: 01/15/09

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