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Opinion Column
For the week of June 14 through June 20, 2000

Idaho’s federal
lawmakers fail to scuttle environmental law

Commentary by PAT MURPHY


How embarrassing.

Idaho’s two congresspersons, Helen Chenoweth-Hage and Mike Simpson, joined a humiliating minority in voting against a popular bipartisan program, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA).

The lopsided House vote was 3-to-1 in favor—315 Republicans and Democrats for, 102 against.

Chenoweth-Hage’s vote was predictable: she’s flat against most anything involving natural resources and the environment.

Simpson tried to conceal his anti-environment opposition by insisting any new land acquisitions be offset by disposing of equal amounts of land, and requiring state legislatures to approve spending federal funds. He failed.

Now the CARA bill is in the Senate, where Idaho’s upper house members—Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo—also are known for hostility toward pro-environment lands legislation.

Idaho stands to receive an estimated $39 million as its share of the first installment of CARA. In the 35 years between 1964 and 1999, Idaho received some $123 million from a CARA program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, for playgrounds, green belts, neighborhood parks, tennis courts, swimming pools, sports fields and picnic shelters.

As one of the fastest growing states with rapidly expanding urban areas, Idaho needs help in providing amenities for its increasingly recreation-minded residents.

No thanks to Idaho’s Reps. Chenoweth-Hage and Simpson, that help seems to be on the way.

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The odds of these two episodes happening must’ve been astronomical:

First: my father served in World War I as a gunner’s mate on two four-stacker destroyers, the USS Wadsworth and the USS Stringham.

Last September, while working on an Environmental News Network feature, I interviewed a man in Pennsylvania named Hal Taussig, whose name was as unforgettable as the commander of the USS Wadsworth —Capt. Joseph Taussig. Hal Taussig turned out to be a distant relative of my father’s commanding officer of more than 80 years ago.

Second, on CNN a few months ago, a 104-year-old Chicago man, Edwin Lewis, belatedly was honored at the Great Lakes Naval Station for his World War I service on the second of my father’s duty ships, the USS Stringham. Lewis and my father, who would be 103 this year had he lived, probably were shipmates, more than 80 years ago.

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World War II veterans long ago became accustomed to the upside-down-world of rapidly changing alliances, when old enemies (Germany, Japan and Italy) later became friends and a former wartime friend (the Soviet Union) became a sworn Cold War foe of the United States.

Now this irony:

The mail brought a new lapel pin for my membership in the First Cavalry Division Association. The First Cav, which came ashore in South Korea on July 18, 1950, was hit by Chinese "volunteer" troops in October 1950, and was sent reeling in retreat back to South Korea.

When I opened the lapel pin’s cellophane packet, a small adhesive label was attached— "Made in China."

That First Cav survivors of those terrible days of murderous Chinese assaults would now be doing business with China speaks volumes of the craziness and futility of war.


Pat Murphy is the retired publisher of the Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator.

 

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