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Interns!

KEA Summer Interns Kayla Baker and Trevor Frank - photo by KEA BlackberryCam

The best part about summers at KEA? Probably the nice weather in North Idaho. Second best? Interns!

Meet Kayla Baker and Trevor Frank — this summer’s interns in the office at KEA. Kayla joins us from North Idaho College where she is currently studying zoology with an eye toward a career in wildlife conservation. Now, though, she’s helping us with pretty much anything and everything that a small local conservation non-profit organization needs to have done.

Interns Kayla Baker and Trevor Frank actually working on stuff - photo by KEA BlackberryCam

Trevor rejoins KEA part-time this summer from University of Oregon’s law school where he will be a 3rd-year student in the fall. Trevor was a member of last summer’s crack legal team and he is back this year doing legal research and causing serious  problems for local polluters.

We’re really pleased that they are taking time from their valuable summer break to help us out.  Also, otherwise, we’d be stuffing envelopes by ourselves.

 

 

 

 

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We finally confirmed a juicy rumor we heard earlier this morning that Wes Hanson – KEA Board member and Art Manley Award winner — was just appointed to fill one of two vacancies on the Kootenai County Planning Commission.  The other new appointee is Collin Coles, a former planner for the City of Post Falls.

The Planning Commission will have a central role in the upcoming development of a new and updated zoning and development code. The complicated overhaul is long overdue, with much of the current code dating back to the 1970s. (New Commissioner Coles will be able to draw on his code-development experience in Post Falls, which adopted an innovative Smart Code scheme for land use regulation while Coles was chief planner there.)

Wes, who has put in long hours influencing the development of the County’s comprehensive plan, and has a long history of involvement in land conservation and protecting rural values, will be a fantastic addition to the Planning Commission.

 

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In a letter dated March 4th, the district managers for both the Coeur d’Alene and Boise districts of the BLM rejected the proposed land exchange that would have transferred some 9000 acres of North Idaho BLM property to M3, in exchange for some 11,000 acres of M3 lands in the Boise foothills.  M3, an Arizona-based development company with an interest in a large development proposal outside of Eagle, had intended to immediately flip the North Idaho BLM properties to the Idaho Forest Group for timber harvesting. In the letter, BLM says “We have concluded this exchange proposal is not in the public’s best interest.”

Last summer, KEA submitted a letter to Congressional representatives and BLM sharply critical of the proposed exchange.

According to the BLM’s analysis, the acquisition of the sagebrush steppe southern parcels was not equivalent to the loss of high natural resource and timber values of the forested North Idaho lands. BLM noted specifically that the value of the North Idaho properties would be expected to increase substantially in value, while the value of the southern parcels would “remain at or near current value” due to their limited development potential.

The BLM also noted that many of the North Idaho parcels proposed for exchange had high resource values for “wildlife, fisheries, recreation, open space, timber, and threatened and endangered species habitat and connectivity” that were not equaled by the southern properties.

Notably, the BLM letter seemed to foreclose any further action on this exchange for the immediate future. The letter says BLM will not consider “further modifications or refinements” from M3 until the BLM’s Boise office completes its planning process for the Four Rivers area, where the southern part of the exchange would occur. The Four Rivers plan is expected to be completed in 2013.

 

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We sent a version of this post to our friends and members earlier this week, and we thought we’d share our thoughts on 2010 here as well. We’ve had a pretty good year at KEA.

As this end-of-year letter is being written, the Kootenai County Commissioners are finally completing work on the long-awaited comprehensive plan. As you know, KEA has been involved at every step of the way. Although the final product is not all that we would have liked it to be, the new plan is still a vast improvement over the hopelessly out-of-date version currently in effect. KEA’s friends and members can take credit for most of the improvements within the new plan, and for fending off attempts to derail those improvements by developers, builders and misguided business interests.

In other 2010 accomplishments, KEA’s Community Roots program started up Kootenai County’s first, and only, charitable CSA in Dalton Gardens, making CSA fresh produce accessible to food stamp recipients. Meanwhile, the Roots program also maintained our plot at the Shared Harvest community garden and continued our fresh food deliveries to food assistance facilities in Coeur d’Alene.
KEA continues to comment on U.S. Forest Service proposals in the region, and was successful this past summer in pressuring the local USFS office to release overdue monitoring reports. We continue to be engaged in very preliminary collaborative conversations about forest management throughout the Panhandle, and we increased our coalition and coordination efforts with fellow conservationists and forest activists throughout the region.

In the past year, KEA spent a great deal of time and effort on difficult and controversial water quality concerns. With our partnership with the Environmental Law Clinic at Gonzaga Law School, KEA was successful in forcing the Federal Highway Administration to correct serious deficiencies in its Fernan Lake Road reconstruction project. KEA also provided substantial comments into the Spokane River cleanup process and EPA’s proposed cleanup for the Upper Coeur d’Alene Basin.

We know that the most successful strategy for environmental protection is a well-educated community. This is why KEA has worked hard to improve our communications and outreach efforts.  We have utilized social media to extend our reach to a wider audience than ever before via Facebook, Twitter and this KEA blog and we continue our work to improve our newsletters, e-news, and website.  Also, our 38th year of noon meetings at the Iron Horse may have been our best so far.

In October, our Second Annual Junk2Funk Eco-Fashion Show bigger, better, and more successful than the previous year. With more than 35 artists participating in this chic eco-fashion event, our annual event has made environmental/conservation awareness positively fun.

Looking ahead to 2011, we expect to make more progress, and new progress. This spring and summer, look for KEA to begin a new phase of our Hayden Lake Project with some demonstration projects in collaboration with local schools.

Look to KEA to gain greater protections for beloved Cougar Bay. And look to KEA to lead the efforts to re-write the zoning and development regulations in Kootenai County to protect natural and scenic resources, maintain rural areas, stop sprawl, and protect our quality of life.

If you’ve heard me speak about KEA, you’ve probably heard me say it it before, the most important prerequisite for environmental protection in our region is a healthy KEA. The strength, breadth and commitment of our grassroots members and supporters are what gives us influence and power to do the critical conservation work that none of us can do alone.


Please consider an end of year contribution. If you’re not a member, consider joining. If you are a member, consider an additional contribution. If you’re a contributor, consider contributing a little extra this year. We know that this economy is tough and your household finances are stretched thin. At the same time, the threats to our environment and quality of life remain, while KEA’s already-tight budget is projected to be even tighter in the new year.

We accomplish what we accomplish because of your support.

From all of us at KEA, our very best for 2011.

Terry Harris
Executive Director

 

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Does it seem that every single non-profit in the entire world has sent you an email in the last week or two? And something in the mail? And maybe a fresh newsletter?  There’s a reason for that. Not to give away the trade secrets or anything, but non-profits need money to survive, and people give generously at this time of year.

In fact, according to an annual survey, more than 3 out of 4 Americans plan on giving money to charities in the last 6 weeks of the year. Many wait until the last three days of the year. Some $48.4 billion (that’s billion-with-a-B) will be donated this holiday season. Most people give to at least two or three charities with most donations under $100. With high-dollar donors included, the average total gift amount is $281. Donors are giving through many different channels these days, and on-line giving is expected to be at an all time high.

Anyway. We just bring this simple explanation to your attention as a public service. And if you feel so inclined, consider an end of year donation to your local grassroots non-profit conservation organization. Our official end-of-year email will go out later this week.

 

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We’re SO busy here at KEA: saving Cougar Bay, fighting over mine waste cleanups and water quality, monitoring local forests and land use, and helping to create farms and gardens for people who need food. There will never be enough of us to do the work we need to do, but we do have a position available. If you’re energetic, committed to the cause, and don’t mind low non-profit pay and long non-profit hours, send us a resume and cover letter.

(Click here for a job description.)

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After some detailed study and discussion, KEA finally weighed in on the proposed land exchange between Arizona developer M3 Eagle, Idaho Forest Group (IFG), and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), expressing serious concerns.

The complicated exchange would provide M3 with key parcels related to a development proposal just north of Eagle, it would supply BLM with some 12000 acres of M3’s surplus sagebrush steppe lands in the Boise foothills, and it would supply Idaho Forest Group with some 8000 acres of BLM forest lands in North Idaho. M3 and IFG would like the Idaho congressional delegation to jump start the process with legislation to authorize the exchange pending environmental studies. (News coverage available here and here and here.)

KEA has had the opportunity to review presentations on the proposal by BLM’s North Idaho office and by Idaho Forest Group, in which the pros and cons of the proposal were thoroughly explored. In a letter to Congressional representatives sent yesterday, KEA expressed concern with the proposal:

In sum, on the substance, we believe the present proposal drains critical public resources from BLM’s inventory in North Idaho while not providing comparable economic or environmental value in the Boise foothills. On the procedure, we believe that any such proposal should be subjected to a full environmental analysis and a comprehensive parcel-by-parcel appraisal prior to any approvals – legislated or otherwise.

The letter notes that KEA doesn’t necessarily or automatically oppose land exchange proposals with the federal government. Indeed, consolidating parcels for conservation benefit or acquiring recreational access are often accomplished through land exchanges. But this proposal would essentially exhaust BLM’s North Idaho inventory, making local exchanges much more difficult for the foreseeable future.

Most importantly, though, these complex exchanges require a great deal of study first. Each and every parcel needs a thorough environmental assessment and a thorough market appraisal, and these evaluations need to be accomplished — and released for public input — before approvals are given. In this respect, we expressed concern to our congressional delegation that legislation on this proposal would be premature, and probably prejudicially so.

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