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Politics trumps science in Idaho - once again

The fate of Dave Parrish (the demoted Idaho Department of Fish and Game regional supervisor) somewhat parallels that of Don Quixote when the valorous knight attacked a windmill he mistook for a giant. ...With the support of Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, Rep. Bedke picked up the phone and relayed to the governor's office that he thought Dave Parrish's remarks in his editorial to the Twin Falls Times-News were "inappropriate," came too early in the environmental process and violated Gov. Butch Otter's media policy.

The fate of Dave Parrish (the demoted Idaho Department of Fish and Game regional supervisor) somewhat parallels that of Don Quixote when the valorous knight attacked a windmill he mistook for a giant. Mounted on his trusty steed, Rocinante, he thrust his lance into one of the sails. The wind moved the sail with such force that it broke the lance to pieces, picked up the horse and the knight and dropped them battered to the ground.

The 185 China Mountain wind turbines aren't even built yet, but Dave unknowingly thrust a verbal "editorial lance" into the hide of high-ranking state legislator Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and suffered nearly the same fate as Don Quixote. With the support of Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, Rep. Bedke picked up the phone and relayed to the governor's office that he thought Dave Parrish's remarks in his editorial to the Twin Falls Times-News were "inappropriate," came too early in the environmental process and violated Gov. Butch Otter's media policy.

There is no doubt in my mind (and many others I have spoken to) that Bedke's actions were "inappropriate" for a legislator and also came too early in the environmental process to get the governor involved.

Although Bedke didn't voice... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The fate of Dave Parrish (the demoted Idaho Department of Fish and Game regional supervisor) somewhat parallels that of Don Quixote when the valorous knight attacked a windmill he mistook for a giant. Mounted on his trusty steed, Rocinante, he thrust his lance into one of the sails. The wind moved the sail with such force that it broke the lance to pieces, picked up the horse and the knight and dropped them battered to the ground.

The 185 China Mountain wind turbines aren't even built yet, but Dave unknowingly thrust a verbal "editorial lance" into the hide of high-ranking state legislator Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and suffered nearly the same fate as Don Quixote. With the support of Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, Rep. Bedke picked up the phone and relayed to the governor's office that he thought Dave Parrish's remarks in his editorial to the Twin Falls Times-News were "inappropriate," came too early in the environmental process and violated Gov. Butch Otter's media policy.

There is no doubt in my mind (and many others I have spoken to) that Bedke's actions were "inappropriate" for a legislator and also came too early in the environmental process to get the governor involved.

Although Bedke didn't voice his opinion (as Dave Parrish did to defend potential effects on wildlife), he is obviously in favor of the project - but there is no penalty for him to express his opinion "too early."

What's done is done, the hammer has dropped, a fine professional has been bagged, and politics once again trumps professional opinion - nothing new in Idaho. But let's look at how Fish and Game Director Cal Groen could have handled the matter more professionally, without all the brouhaha.

First of all, a manager worth his salt would not have rebutted Dave Parrish's editorial in the Times-News with one of his own a few days later. Instead, Dave should have been called "on the carpet," admonished for his perceived lack of judgment and reprimanded however the director felt necessary - yes, maybe even demoted. But it should have been managed internally as most personnel actions should be. Dave works directly for Cal Groen - not for Bedke nor the governor.

Now, as most of us have read, Fish and Game has come out with another press release defending its position and chastising Parrish for not following the "chain of command" - how military can you get? Director Groen has set himself up as the "general" in charge of a "top-down" organization which virtually eliminates any of his staff - whether they be colonels, lieutenants, sergeants or privates - from expressing their opinions either internally or externally.

Somehow the agency has to lighten-up and allow some semblance of freedom of expression, or all you will hear from Fish and Game employees will be, "I can only give my name, rank and serial number."

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: HOW WE GOT HERE

In April, Gov. Butch Otter's communication director sent an e-mail reminding state workers to alert him about media interviews and to allow him to review press releases that could be controversial. The e-mail did not mention letters to the editor.

On July 2, the Twin Falls Times-News published an editorial supporting a wind farm proposed for China Mountain, south of Twin Falls. The project would include 185 turbines and cost an estimated $500 million.

On July 6, the Times-News published a response to its editorial by David Parrish, who worked for 16 years in Idaho Fish and Game's Magic Valley office, including the last eight years as supervisor.

Parrish wrote: "The China Mountain Wind Farm, if constructed, may be positive for the local economy from a tax revenue standpoint, but it will have negative repercussions on Idaho's wildlife.

"It's a no-brainer - the footprint of a project that will cover prime habitat sage grouse, mule deer, antelope and other sagebrush-dependent species.

"Impacts will extend well beyond the acreage of sagebrush that's removed to support the infrastructure for the massive project, which includes around 70 miles of new and improved roads, up to 15 miles of new power line construction, substations, maintenance facilities and more."

Rep. Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said he contacted the governor's office after reading Parrish's letter. "As someone who watches those issues and reads the newspaper every day front to back, I saw that and thought, 'Hmm, this seems inconsistent with the directive that came from the governor's office,' and it already seems like a conclusion was drawn here," Bedke told the Times-News.

On July 15, the Times-News published a letter from Fish and Game Director Cal Groen, who clarified that Parrish's letter gave his own opinion, not that of the agency.

On Aug. 4, Fish and Game announced Parrish's demotion to state employees. Later, Fish and Game Deputy Director Virgil Moore said Parrish's letter to the Times-News was one factor in his demotion and that discussions of his removal went "back months." Moore and Jon Hanian, a spokesman for the governor, also said that Otter had no involvement in the decision. Moore said that state legislators had contacted Groen and Fish and Game commissioners about the issue.

Parrish declined to discuss the matter with the Times-News, other than to say he would be transferred to Boise as the fisheries program coordinator.

Source: Times-News archives


Source: http://www.idahostatesman.c...

SEP 10 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/17022-politics-trumps-science-in-idaho-once-again
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