Friday, May 25, 2007

Celebrate an Idaho Memorial Day

Rick Johnson is the executive director of the Idaho Conservation League.

Memorial Day used to have a singular focus, a solemn day of mourning, for remembrance for those who gave their lives for freedom. Few would argue that some of that's been lost to basic glee around getting a warm weather three-day weekend. Nevertheless, I still remember the placing of flags on veteran's graves as a kid.

Things are a lot more complicated this Memorial Day. I recognize the sacrifice of veterans, yet set aside the tender subject of today's military entanglements. Conflicted, I still seek some of the solemnity of the day, and find myself again drawn to this place, this state we live in, Idaho.

Who among us has not been deeply affected by Idaho's outdoors, the singular scent of sage after a rain, the song of the meadowlark, a pause as we stare into the mountains, or feel the pull of a cutthroat trout on the line? These are challenging times, and it's times like these where Idaho gives us back so much.

Last weekend, the Idaho Conservation League held our annual conference at Redfish Lake Lodge, on the edge of the Sawtooth Wilderness. Each year, members and friends gather from all over the state to celebrate our victories and discuss the challenges to protecting Idaho's air, water, wildlife and great country.

We gathered together and as happens each year, I am humbled by the commitment of neighbors and colleagues, friends old and just met, all of whom work in their own way to protect Idaho. For some it's a life's passion. For others it's writing a check. In both cases it sustains the Idaho Conservation League's work to keep Idaho Idaho, and it makes a real difference.

Last weekend we discussed wolves and forest health, fire and the Boulder-White Clouds, community growth and costs of sprawl to our quality of life. We were humbled by climate change and inspired by good words and work. We were also reminded of the spiritual connection between conservation and creator, however we define it.

The Idaho Conservation League has been preserving Idaho's clean water, wilderness and quality of life for more than 30 years. This Memorial Day weekend, the start of summer camping, hiking, and riding, we hope Idahoans and visitors will pause to think about what we have here. Idaho is a special place; we need to work together to keep it that way.

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