Idaho Governor Addresses Idaho Farm Bureau Legislative ConferenceGarden City--Idaho Governor Butch Otter delivered the keynote address at the 2016 Idaho Farm Bureau Legislative Conference at the Red Lion Riverside in Garden City.
Otter opened up his 30 minute speech updating Farm Bureau members on Sage Grouse Endangered Listing. "We're gonna fight the listing, we thought we had it all worked out but the Federal Government but they moved the goal line. Hell, they moved the field, so we're back to square one. Its unfortunate because we put a lot of good effort into it, but we'll get there."
Wildfires ravaged the Gem State last summer, Otter says before we hand over our lands to the Federal Government we need to consider what a two month fire season costs the State.
"Wildfire this year was real tough on Idaho," said Otter. "We protect 6.1 million acres, thats our contract with the Federal Government. Thats Federal and state ground along with forrest and BLM land. Our fire bill this year was three times the amount of the last 5 years combined. We spent $61-million dollars, thats $61 million we could do incredible things in Idaho, building our economy, giving citizens tax relief, but its money we spent on the fires. More than 742-thousand acres burned and it happened on our watch."
Otter says that Idaho's actual fire bill was $303-million dollars. "So we got to be careful on what we ask for, I understand those folks that want to get ownership back and under our control, but we can't afford a bad fire season."
But Otter told the crowd that we need to get a better handle on the land we're responsible for, and turn it into an asset not a liability. The 2014 Farm Bill called for Governors to study these lands and in turn allow greater management of the land.
"So we have 21 million acres of forest land, 14-million of BLM land so our forester went out and did that study and found 18 million acres that are stressed, bug infested and diseased. Twelve million of that was critical," said Otter. "We asked for the opportunity to manage 1.8 million acres and we now have two projects that we're working on under our management. We can survive a court test and if we want to go in and cut a tree or build and turn an asset, that we will get that opportunity if they don't burn down first."
Otter added that he's asking the Legislature to fund more wildland fire funding for volunteer ranchers who can react to fire. The state funds six rangeland districts now at a cost of $150-thousand dollars. "We need more, they see a puff of smoke they can knock it down with a Cat or disk before the BLM can leave the garage. We just want the chance to do battle on our own resources."
Otter says he worries about the EPA and Waters of the US initiative in which that agency seeks control of everything from irrigation ditches to mud holes on public and private land. He said its well established in the courts that Idaho has full control and ownership of its water and will continue that fight forever.
The 3-term governor stressed that his administration continues to operate a lean state government but a government thats necessary and provide a role what a proper government is and is not.
"Figures show that we led the nation out of that recession, we had to deal with less money coming in so we cut budgets, that caused pain and heartache but thats what we did and led the nation out of recession," said Otter. "We just got word that we're the number one job creator in the nation, thats why."