citydesk (1/21/09) 

Local, laptops and lobos

Idaho eats 5 percent

Ninety-five percent. That's the staggering amount of its food Idaho imports, according to one survey.

What about all that farmland beyond Boise, where communities like Emmett, Parma, Marsing and Fruitland grow everything from hops and mint to potatoes and onions? Exported.

In fact, at a Community Food Forum Thursday night hosted by the City of Boise and new nonprofit Sustainable Community Connections, Janie Burns of Meadowlark Farms told the audience that not only does Idaho import 95 percent of its food, but $28 million in food leaves Canyon County each year headed for out-of-state mouths.

What it comes down to is simple, Burns said: "We're not eating what we're growing, and we're not growing what we're eating."

About 130 people attended the food forum to weigh in on how Idahoans can keep food closer to home, as well as to take action toward that goal. Among the crowd were commercial farmers, small landowners and heads of well-known food organizations like Rural Roots and Idaho's Bounty.

City Council member Elaine Clegg kicked off the conversation with a brief introduction, stating that Boise cannot be a sustainable city without having a sustainable food system.

Although Beth Geagan of Sustainable Community Connections emphasized that developing a viable local food system is a "people and community issue" rather than a city or county or state issue, Clegg cited a few areas in which she saw room for improvement on the city's behalf.

"In my own mind," Clegg said, "a couple of elements need to be included." She went on to say that the city could do a better job coordinating and supporting farmers' markets, reassessing policy or creating policy to support the growth of a local food movement, and possibly embarking on regulatory changes to make food growth in the city more possible.

Burns and Geagan both spoke after Clegg, and it was clear that the forum's mission wasn't all talk and no action.

From a selection of nine priority areas related to creating a more sustainable local food system, attendees voted production, policy, distribution and education issues of top concern.

So what about that 95 percent?

According to Burns, it's not a difficult fix, but it is all about a community's priorities: new subdivisions or local food? She estimates that if Ada and Canyon counties wanted to grow 100 percent of the vegetables people most commonly eat (a list of 21 veggies that includes everything from lettuce and tomatoes to sweet potatoes and lima beans), it would require about 11,000 acres.

Or, to put that into better perspective, about 1 square mile on either side of the freeway from downtown Boise to Meridian.

—Rachael Daigle

Otter apologizes for laptop sneak

In an interview with Idaho Public Television's Thanh Tan at the end of the first legislative week, Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter apologized for budget director Wayne Hammon's choice of words at an earlier budget hearing. Hammon accused budget writers of attempting to "sneak" a bunch of laptops into their budgets.

"It was probably poor timing to bring it up, especially the second day of the session, and I apologize," Otter said in the video, which aired on Idaho Reports.

Otter admitted that Hammon made a "poor choice of words," but asked that lawmakers move on.

"I think we need to move beyond that," he says. "I've asked both he and my chief to go back to the Legislature and make it right because it was something we shouldn't have done."

Tan played back the clip of Hammon chastising the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee for the governor ... since he was not present for the live performance.

After Otter vetoed funding for legislators' laptops at the end of the 2008 session, the Legislature identified another pot of money in its budget to buy the computers.

All legislators have new HP laptops this year at a cost of about $100,000.

At a later JFAC session, some members accepted Otter's apology.

Wolves in Obama's court

The merry-go-round that is wolf regulation in the West has made yet another turn. The Department of the Interior announced that it will, once again, remove gray wolves from the endangered species list—at least wolves in Idaho, Montana, eastern Oregon and northern Utah.

According to the decision, states will, again, take over management of the species, with the exception of Wyoming. That state's controversial management plan was the center of concern for the federal courts late last year.

Under the Wyoming plan, wolves outside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks were in a "predator" zone, where they could be shot on sight.

Ed Mitchell, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said the agency is ready and waiting to take over management of the species, again.

"[U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] seems to be pretty well convinced they've answered the concerns of the courts," he said.

Idaho's management plan has already been approved by Fish and Wildlife and allows for some limited sport hunting to maintain population levels. The first planned hunt was delayed last fall after a lawsuit put wolves back under federal protection.

The start date for the latest delisting will be under the administration of President Barack Obama, which could mean further changes for the ruling.

—Deanna Darr

war in Iraq

U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Friday, Jan. 16, 2009, 4,228 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,404 in combat and 824 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 30,960. In the last week, one U.S. soldier died.

Since Former President George W. Bush declared "mission accomplished" aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, 4,078 soldiers have died.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense

IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 90,442 and 98,731.

Source: iraqbodycount.net

COST OF IRAQ WAR: $589,871,829,755

Source: costofwar.com

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