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As many of you know, we’ve renovated our kealliance.org website and we’ve migrated this blog over to its new, permanent location at kealliance.org/blog.  We’re still working out the kinks, and we’ll still post at both site for the next week or so, but we hope to complete the transition soon.

We encourage you to point your browsers and update your feeds to the new location. Also, if you like having the posts delivered to you via email, you’ll need to re-subscribe to the new blog. The subscription box is at the very bottom of our homepage. Thanks for bearing with us on this, but we think it’ll be much better for all of us at the new site.

 

 

 

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The Supreme Court wetland case involving a Priest Lake lot will be heard by the Court on Monday morning, and the legal and environmental pundits have been previewing the case. The Court has yet to rule on whether a brief by conservation groups will be filed, but a ruling could come as early as tomorrow. In the mean time, here are some of the more impressive previews:

The authoritative and well-respected SCOTUS blog has its preview by legal reporter Lyle Dennison here.

For the Center for Progressive Reform, law professor Nina Mendelson describes why the case is important to environmental enforcement and suggests reforms to avoid problems in the future.

Huffington PostWashington Post and the LA Times covered the issue recently.

Our friends (and hopefully co-friends-of-the-court) at Idaho Conservation League took note with this post.

UPDATED 1/7:  NRDC has a superb post here.

 

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Priest Lake residents Mike and Chantell Sackett.  We’ve written about this complicated wetlands case before. The Sacketts are suing the EPA over a wetland determination on their property, and that a compliance order issued by EPA in the case should be immediately reviewable in a Court.

In support of the Sacketts’s position, some 13 parties filed “friend of the court” briefs to expand on the Sackett’s arguments, including heavyweights like the Farm Bureau, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Association of Home Builders and General Electric.  However, when KEA joined with NRDCWaterkeeper Alliance, and several other Idaho conservation groups to file a similar brief in support of the EPA, the Sacketts filed a rare objection. The Supreme Court will likely decide whether or not to allow our brief in the next several days.

At issue is the fact that the scenario the Sacketts outline for the Court does not entirely comport to what actually happened. Documents obtained by environmental groups – including a timeline written by Chantell Sackett herself – paint an entirely different picture.

The Sacketts, who argue to the Court that they were blindsided by an EPA Compliance Order regarding the existence of wetlands on their property, fail to acknowledge to the Court that the EPA and their own consultant told them about the wetlands months earlier. (Much later, the Sacketts evidently hired another consultant more to their liking.) The Sacketts who argue about the heavy hand of the EPA fail to acknowledge to the Court that they had ample opportunity to work with EPA to resolve the issues for almost six months prior to receiving the compliance order and for months afterward. The Sacketts who claim that the wetlands permitting process and risk of fines would be financially devastating and would therefore violate their due process rights, fail to mention that an “after the fact” permit would have been very easy and inexpensive to obtain and was offered by the Corps of Engineers as an option.

The Sacketts do not dispute any of these facts. They do, however, in their opposition to our filing, try to explain them away and diminish their significance to the narrow procedural case before the Court.

Indeed, the Supreme Court may decide that the issue of whether the Sacketts’ story holds up or not is the Supreme Court’s problem, and is rather the Sackett’s problem for a later date. The theoretical issues identified by the Supreme Court in granting their review remain the same. The problem, we believe, is that the Supreme Court doesn’t decide theoretical issues, they decide actual cases. We simply believe they should have all the information in this actual case.  We’ll let you know if the Court lets us give our version of the story.

 

If there’s one thing we notice in the KEA office, it is that the days on the calendar keep flying at us. Every day is a new challenge.  In the brief respite afforded by a slightly less frantic holiday week, here is a compilation of things we’ll be watching as the new year unfolds.

1. Dike Road Trees — At some point in 2012, we’re likely to learn the fate of the trees lining Rosenberry Drive. With our lawsuit, we’re hopeful that the order to remove the trees can be overturned. With our petition drive, we hope we get high-level attention from DC decision-makers. But there are other possibilities too — the City could find an alternative process or engineer a solution to allow the trees to remain on the dike. Removing the trees, we hope, is not an option in 2012.

2. Tubbs Hill — 2012 could bring wheelchair accessibility to the great Tubbs Hill. An ad hoc committee, meeting through the fall developed a consensus agreement to recommend accessibility upgrades to the east-side trail which would allow wheelchairs to access the lake views and forest experience that make the hill so spectacular.

3. Bonner County — The more extreme leanings of the Bonner County government will be further exposed early in the new year. The County Commissioners are taking aim at the designation of critical habitat for the Selkirk caribou. And the bizarre Property Rights Council is taking aim at drinking water protections. It remains to be seen whether these efforts will amount to anything more than rhetorical bluster, but the overt targeting of important environmental protections is most worrisome.

4. Forests — In early 2012, we expect to see a brand new draft forest plan for the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. The long-delayed and much anticipated plan will guide forest management for years. The new plan will address how the US Forest Service will protect wildlife habitat, watersheds, old growth forests and roadless areas. Or not.

5. Hayden Lake Project — Last summer’s successful launch of a floating treatment wetland will, we hope, lead to many more launches this summer. KEA hopes that our innovative hands-on approach to water quality improvement catches on.

6. The Legislature — as always, the new year signals that the State legislature is preparing to reconvene. With education and healthcare issues expected to dominate the headlines, and with a state budget significantly less dire than past years, perhaps the anti-environment mischief will be minimized this year. It’s tough to keep track of the day-to-day dealings of legislators from Sherman Ave. in Coeur d’Alene, so we’ll count on our friends at Idaho Conservation League to follow the machinations from their Boise offices.

7. Kootenai County Land Use Code — By the end of 2012, Kootenai County is likely to have completed the important modernization of land use and development codes. The code, which will govern development for at least a decade, has the potential to reduce controversy and increase protection of the County’s critical natural and scenic resources.

8. Community Roots — new Roots organizer Kara Carleton takes over our successful local food program this year. This year, Roots hopes to double the productivity at our charitable CSA in Dalton Gardens while expanding educational and outreach programs, continuing the cooperative efforts with Shared Harvest Community Garden, and maintaining our local food share program which has distributed almost 30,000 pounds of local fresh food to food assistance facilities in Coeur d’Alene.

9. Sustaining KEA — 2012 will be KEA’s 40th year. As the oldest conservation non-profit in Idaho, Kootenai Environmental Alliance has an extraordinary track record, so sustaining the organization in order to continue the work remains a priority. Our members and supporters have been generous with membership contributions and donations, even in these challenging economic times, but larger grants from shrinking foundations are much harder to come by. Raising the necessary funding is always hard work. Meanwhile, some 40 public events were on last year’s KEA calendar, and this year’s calendar is already filling up. Our annual meeting is coming up within the month, our 2nd annual Earth Gala just over the horizon after that. And, as always, there are “Lunch and Learn” meetings to schedule, newsletters to publish, and websites to improve…

10. What else? Well, we look forward to the new year when we’ll find out.

 

 

*Apologies to Harper’s.

157 – Number of meetings, hearings, or events attended by Terry for KEA in 2011

163 – number Adrienne attended

40 – number of 2011 public events KEA hosted, sponsored or participated in

5 – number of predominantly fundraising events

1 – number of floating treatment wetlands launched in a pond above Hayden Lake

101 – KEA blog postings in 2011

186 – percentage annual increase in blog readership

26 – number of KEA e-mail newsletters sent to subscribers

4 – number of KEA regular mail newsletters mailed to members

6 – number of other KEA mailings

4400 – Minimum number of signatures on Dike Road trees petition

500 – approximate number of Dike Road trees at risk

1149 – number of “likes” for KEA’s facebook page

194 – number of KEA facebook page posts

648 – number of Terry’s twitter followers

368,000 – minimum number of social media impressions

1 – number of no-wake zones implemented in Cougar Bay

20 – minimum number of osprey nesting sites preserved in Cougar Bay

8 – times KEA stories appeared on local television in 2011

4 – on local radio

17 – minimum number of mentions in the CDA Press

15 – minimum number of mentions in the Spokesman Review

3.1 million – minimum total number of local earned media impressions

29,000 – minimum total number of pounds of produce delivered by Community Roots

2 – multiple of number of CSA boxes delivered in 2011 over 2010

40 – number of years it will be in 2012 since KEA was founded

It’s the end of 2011 and so we take quantitative stock of what we’ve accomplished in the last 52 weeks. The following are the most-viewed blog posts of 2011, which are actually quite representative of the issue work we’ve done over the last year. When it comes to North Idaho conservation controversies, from Bonner County craziness to messes in the Coeur d’Alene basin, from Tubbs Hill trails to the trees on the Dike Road, you can count on KEA to be in the middle of it.

For 10th place, remarkably, an exact tie:

10. the heartwarming Homeless Osprey Homeless No More and less heartwarming  The Sacketts’ Wetland Mapped

The rest of the top 10:

9. Coeur d’Alene City Council Signals Stronger Stand on Dike Road Trees

8. Bonner County Approves Priest Lake Subdivision

7. New “Property Rights Council” Brings Messy Ideological Extremism to Bonner County Government

6. New Mini-Megaloads Proposed To Be Routed Through Coeur d’Alene on Hwy 95

5. Wheelchairs on Tubbs Hill

4. Coeur d’Alene Basin Pipeline Spill?

3. January Flooding May Have Caused the Worst Coeur d’Alene Basin Contamination in Years

2. What The Priest Lake Wetland Case Is Actually About

And not that surprisingly, out top post for 2011 is:

1. Saving the Dike Road Trees   

But in an important footnote, it turns out that the blog post that actually got the most hits in 2011 dates from December 2009 and is therefore disqualified from this end-of-year list.  Showing the immense power of search engines, our timelessly informative posting about the legal status of Woodsy the Owl remains undefeated — the article, “The owl is required to be fanciful and must wear slacks,” and consequent downloads of the ridiculous public-domain illustration of Woodsy Owl, again got more views in 2011 than any other KEA blog post. However, for whatever reason, the search engines stopped sending so much Woodsy Owl traffic in mid-summer. Evidently, some other web presence (Wikipedia, we think) is now the chief authority for all things Woodsy.

A generous member has offered to match end-of-year contributions to KEA, dollar for dollar, up to $5000. For the next week, your donation goes twice as far. So here are the top ten reasons why you should click over to our nice new website and donate today.

1. Tubbs Hill and Cougar Bay. KEA is the leading defender of our local jewels. This past year we defended Tubbs Hill from unnecessary intrusion and we saved Cougar Bay for habitat and quiet wake-free recreation.

2. Who else will save the Dike Road Trees?

3. 40 years. We’re the oldest non-profit conservation organization in the State of Idaho. Next year, 2012, will mark our 40th anniversary. Help us kick off the next 40 years.

4. Tax deduction. We sometimes forget to remind people, but we are a charity organized under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code, which means your donations to KEA are tax deductible. And tax season is coming up.

5. Board and Staff. We got a truly talented and dedicated team, and we’re really good at what we do.

6. Who else is calling out the nonsense in Bonner County?

7. Community Roots. Our successful local food program is expanding every year. Our first-in-the-region charitable CSA, and our local food share system are delivering local fresh food to families who need it.

8. Effective and Efficient. We are, out of budget necessity, a scrappy, low-overhead, grassroots, volunteer-dependent organization. Very little of our budget earmarked for fundraising expenditures and we hope to keep it that way.

9. We do the work so you don’t have to. There are so many meetings, hearings, and events to attend. There is so much research to do, comments to write, and phone calls to make.  As the grassroots community voice for all things conservation in North Idaho, we are tireless, principled, and wholly dedicated to our mission “to conserve, protect and restore the environment in North Idaho.” Because that’s what you’d expect.

10.   Our community depends on us, but we depend on you. Our natural and scenic environment and our beautiful sense of community is what makes this such a great place. It is all very much worth defending.  As you consider your end-of-year contributions, consider giving generously to KEA.

 

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