Yesterday morning Senator Keough, a soft spoken, well respected long time JFAC member and co-chair, made a motion that we re-open the budget for the Office of Species Conservation. She explained that she rarely supports doing this. She doesn't support "Un-Dos."
Last week I'd joined Rep. Ringo and 8 Republicans in voting for a substitute motion to cut two staff from the Office of Species Conservation. The move was wildly unpopular in my district since the office mostly administers grants to private land owners to help them comply with the federal Endangered Species Act. My childhood home of Custer County is one of the largest beneficiaries of these grants. There in the mountains, ranchers and farmers along the many forks of the Salmon River get funds to hire local contractors to install fish screens and other contraptions on irrigation ditches along the river banks and tributaries where endangered salmon spawn and smolt often swim and face sudden death in pastures and alfalfa fields.
So, yesterday, Senator Bert Brackett made a motion to restore staff to the Office of Species Conservation and as I did last week, I seconded his original budget motion for the office. Bert looked sad and apologized to the committee for not explaining adequately how important the office is so that the committee might have supported his earlier motion. He owed no apology.I told him so and apologized to him and the committee for abandoning him to vote for Senator Siddoway's motion to cut the budget. There is a respect we owe each other to let our colleagues know when we change our minds having said at first we will support them. It is about your word. I take it seriously. Not all do.
Ironically the Director of the Office of Species Conservation got up after the motion and before we voted nearly unanimously to add two new staff back into his budget. I think he hoped to persuade the committee that he is a good guy and that his office deserves the existing attorney and 7 other staff. In any case, he, the director of the Office of Species Conservation, whose work it is to help protect endangered species, smiled at the committee in anticipation of our vote, proclaiming the Endangered Species Act the most draconian law in the nation.