Idaho’s natural beauty is one of its greatest assets, and it’s up to the citizens of Idaho to protect it and use it responsibly.
A U.S. district court judge recently did that when he upheld federal laws, and the wishes of the Nez Perce tribe, by prohibiting mega loads from passing through the Highway 12 corridor.
Mega loads are massive industrial shipments that sometimes weigh as much as 300 tons and congest roadways for hours at a time.
This stretch of highway goes from Lewiston, along the Clearwater, Lochsa and Snake Rivers, through Idaho and into Montana. The route also crosses the Nez Perce Reservation and cuts through the Clearwater National Forest.
The route these mega loads have chosen is the main concern for their opponents. Not only do these shipments cut through protected land — the Lochsa River Corridor and the Clearwater National Forest — but it also violates the Nez Perce treaty. Nez Perce has protested these mega loads since they began passing through in the early 2000s. Many other community members joined the protests in an attempt to protect the forest and waterways from pollution.
Up until the last few years, the mega loads passed through inconsistently, but plans to increase the shipments increased protests. The protests escalated and the Nez Perce tribe attempted to block the shipments. The Idaho Department of Transportation gave these shipments access despite the attempted blockade, which prompted federal intervention. The fact that this process was so drawn took so long outshould be considered a failure of Idaho’s government.
Progress should not have come in the form of a hardly heeded court order, it should have come from carefully deliberated compromise.
When treaties and vows are broken the state government should take an active role in fixing the problem. When protected environments are potentially thrown into harms way, the state government should do its best to understand and alleviate those threats. Most importantly, when a concern is voiced, no matter how small the voice, that viewpoint must be taken into consideration.
It is sometimes easy to forget that Idaho is a diverse state with plenty of minority voices that must be taken into consideredation. The failure of communication between the people and the Idaho legislature created many of the mega load problems.
The mega loads had been protested from day one, but instead of setting up a reasonable and sustainable plan to get them through, the powers at be let them through without fully considering the needs and wants of the people who stood to lose the most. The lack of planning and communication shows blatant disrespect to the protestors, the Nez Perce tribe and the majority of Idahoans. Federal courts should not have to decide state issues, but when our state government refuses to be proactive and solve problems, this is exactly what happens.
State governance is a vital system that cannot be done effectively without discussion that considers the wellbeing of everyone.
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