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Commentaries and editorials

A New Environmental
Gestalt in NW Delegation?

by Jeff Mapes
The Oregonian, November 17, 2008

It certainly hasn't been lost on Oregonians - at least those who deal with the environment and natural resources - that the state's new senator, Democrat Jeff Merkley, will have a different take on environmental issues than the man he defeated, Republican Sen. Gordon Smith.

But my old friend, Rocky Barker (he used to be one of my editors when I reported from inside the beltway many years ago) makes the important point that there's also been a big change in Idaho.

In Idaho, you have one Republican, Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, replacing another Republican, Sen. Larry Craig. But, according to Barker, who writes for the Idaho Statesman, the change will be just as vast.

Craig was often a determined opponent of Oregon and Washington Democrats when it came to such issues as salmon protection and anything that even hinted at dam removal. Risch is much more interested in a collaborative approach.

"[Risch's] widely praised effort to bring all sides together to write a plan for Idaho's roadless national forests has fishing and environmental groups and at least one of the leaders of Idaho water interests thinking Risch can help bridge their differences again."

"...Craig's departure clears the way for expanded talks that look beyond salmon and dams to ways to improve the quality of life for the region, said Don Barbieri, a retired CEO of Red Lion Hotels who ran for Congress as a Democrat in Spokane and has come to believe that salmon recovery is crucial to his region's economy.

"For the first time I think we have a level playing field that doesn't have egos driving the decisions," he said."

Jeff Mapes
A New Environmental Gestalt in NW Delegation?
The Oregonian, November 17, 2008

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