Friday, September 07, 2007


The Lords of Yesterday

I found this on the “Friends of the Clearwater” web site. I might add that Gordon Smith is most likely heir to Craig’s network of “friends,” and, in the House, Greg Walden will do his damnedest to sell out the west to the Lords of Yesterday.

The Lords of Yesterday (The fall of Larry Craig)
Posted On: Fri, 09/07/2007 - 12:48
by foc

from the Moscow Pullman Daily News

TOWN CRIER II: Good riddance to servant of timber, grazing interests

By Mark Solomon

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Approaching this weekend's resignation of Sen. Larry Craig, conversations on the fate of our senator across Idaho and the nation often turned into heated debates. Craig has been around a long time.

He has power. Some have profited from his actions as our senator, others have fought him.

Quite a few of us know him personally and, differences in policies and politics aside, were surprised by the harsh judgment handed down by his peers in D.C. Did his fall from grace need to be so sharp, sudden and unforgiving?

I say "yes," but not for the sensational reasons offered by his colleagues. Craig's lack of senatorial supporters and inevitable fall is because he was less a representative of Idaho as he was servant of the "Lords of Yesterday," University of Colorado law professor Charles Wilkinson's phrase for the timber, mining and grazing interests that have controlled our western public lands for the past 150 years. Craig was the last of their errand boys with any power in D.C. He won't be missed.

The forces that gave rise to the power of the Lords are there to discern: relatively small populations in the West's public land states; immense public land resource values; and the reliance of federal land managers on Congress for agency budgets. Combined they gave the Lords a way to systematically fleece the public domain. An Iron Triangle came into being with the Lords, a core group of senators, and federal agencies each delivering and receiving the goods. Craig and former senators such as McClure (Idaho), Murkowski (Alaska), Gorton (Wash.), Packwood (Ore.) and Burns (Mont.) got cash from the Lords to win elections and increase their power through seniority; agencies got budgets from senior senators to build their bureaucracies; and the Lords got our public lands' resources for a fraction of their value. And woe to anyone who got in their way.

An example of the Triangle at work raiding Idaho's national forests - and Larry Craig in action - is the story of John Mumma. In 1989, Forest Service Regional Supervisor Mumma, responsible for the national forests of northern Idaho and western Montana, ordered a reduction in the amount of timber cut to sustainable, legal levels. Forest Supervisors Win Green on the Clearwater and Tom Kovalicky on the Nez Perce supported Mumma. As you can imagine, the Lords could not allow this to continue. Sen. Craig, on their behalf, sent a warning letter to agency chief Dale Robertson, "It is my hope that you will move to assure that (logging) targets are met and line officers are held accountable," he wrote. Ordered by Robertson to increase the cut, Mumma refused and was forced into retirement. Green quit rather than oversee destruction of the Clearwater. Kovalicky left soon thereafter.

The forest liquidation sale resumed, challenged only by forest activists who successfully took the Forest Service into court and outside the short-term control of the Triangle. Short-term, because the Lords' senators were there to change any law that got in the Lords' way.

Craig led the campaign of destruction, eliminating or weakening laws that protected our forests and fish. His favorite weapons were appropriations and budget riders where he could operate in the shadows, unseen. As a senior senator on the Interior Appropriations Committee, Craig created loopholes or cut any federal agency's budget that didn't produce the results the Lords wanted. Remember the 1995 Salvage Rider waiving the "restrictions" of Forest Service laws for one year? That was Craig. How about the 2005 elimination of the Fish Passage Center, a small federal agency that counted and reported how many salmon were making it past the Columbia River dams? Craig. Attempts to pass Lords-friendly amendments to the National Forest Management Act written by Mark Rey (former timber lobbyist, Craig staffer and now Bush administration Forest Service overseer)? Craig again. The list goes on and on.

With Craig's resignation the Lords are left without senior senatorial errand boys. Their ability to control the West's future is seriously diminished. Newer western senators such as Mike Crapo understand the need to balance use of public lands with their protection, something the Lords' senators never did.

I mark these days for what they are: the true dawning of the New West. Go ahead, join the forests and salmon and breathe a great sigh of relief that Craig is gone. I raise my glass in celebration of the bright hope I hold for the West's future as our senior senator slinks into the shadows.

Mark Solomon observes the Palouse from his homestead on top of Moscow Mountain. Town Crier II is a weekly series of columns contributed by 13 local writers. The Town Crier columns run on Wednesday.

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