Washington DC Conversations

Posted on Saturday, June 18th, 2016 by »
Cary Kelly, Phil Hough, Bob Boeh visit DC

Cary Kelly, Phil Hough, Bob Boeh visit DC

Author Henry James once dubbed Washington DC “the city of conversation.” Of course, he came from a generally more polite and refined time. If he visited DC today, we can only imagine what Henry James might call the partisan bickering and a 24-hour news cycle featuring opinion-ators talking at and past each other. What we hear in the media seems more like diatribe not dialogue. So, it is refreshing to actually have conversation in our nation’s seat of power, to see that this is not a “lost art.”

With some effort, good, productive conversation can be found and had. Making the rounds of the house and senate offices as a constituent and having conversations that matter elevates our voice. Bringing local voices, the voices of the people, to our elected officials in DC is a treasured right and one of the greatest expressions of democracy. Everyday people can, and do, go to DC and talk with their elected officials, sharing their views and hearing what is possible (or not) from elected officials and their staff.

That’s just what we have been up to this last week as I travelled to DC with Bonner County Commissioner Cary Kelly and Vice President of Idaho Forest Group Bob Boeh. Together, we walked the walk and talked the talk. We walked the halls of congress, talked in corridors and had conversations in rooms large and small about the local support for congressional designation of the Idaho portion of the Scotchman Peaks as Wilderness. We listened to what the members of Idaho delegation thought might be possible and what they might need to advance legislation. It was all quite civil conversation, not adversarial but exploring and learning. Henry James would have recognized it.

We met and had conversations with all four of our Idaho congressional representatives: Senators Risch and Crapo as well as congressman Labrador and Simpson. And their staff too. In fact, we spent more time with the staff then the congressional members. Congressional staff are the ones who take the detailed notes and do the work of bringing all the conversations together so that good public policy emerges.

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Walking the Real Halls of Congress

We also met with the Montana delegation to share with them what we learned from our “Idaho” meetings, keep them informed about the prospects for legislation for Idaho and to speculate some on the potential in the future for a separate bill for the Montana side of the Scotchmans. We shared conversations with congressman Zinke, Senator Tester and their staff as well as a staff person from Senator Daine’s Office.

This isn’t the start of the conversation; we’ve been talking for some time now. I’ve been back to DC 3 times in just the last year, to talk and listen. Our congressmen and their staff have come to our region where we talk more too. In fact, for over 11 years we’ve had an ongoing dialogue – talking, listening and discussing the prospects for the Scotchmans. But good conversation, like good wine, takes some time to develop to its full potential.

In DC this week the conversation, to use some modern slang, “got real.” It’s not every day a county commissioner and a timber guy come along to discuss the positive value of Wilderness. That is as real as it gets! And judging from the reactions we got, both verbal and body language, the significance was understood, and felt, by everyone we met with. It got people talking.

This was not the last conversation we will have either. There will be more to come in the near future as we are not “there” yet, whatever “there” is. I wish I could talk here about when and how exactly we will get a bill introduced and done. But before I can do that there needs to be some more conversation.

I can say that we are closer to being there now than before and closer than we were at the start of the week. The conversation in DC is always at a higher level, more intense, more interesting, more effective. The conversation we had this last week will continue on in some of the rooms we were in and between some of those people we met with, even as we head back home. Our conversation will continue to echo even after we are gone. I suppose this is why Henry James called DC the “city of conversation.”

About The Author:

Phil Hough is the Executive Director of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

An avid long distance hiker, Phil's experience on the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trails brought a passion for wild places and motivated him to work towards protecting the one of the last and largest wild places in northern Idaho and Western Montana, the Scotchman Peaks.

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One Response

  1. Bob boeh says:

    It was a privilege to be part of a professional presentation process that outlined why this special area needs permanent protection. The partnership between IFG and FSPW is rooted in mutual benefits and synergy. I look forward to seeing this project to a satisfactory and timely conclusion.

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