In between assignments for Idaho Public Radio covering the 2019 Idaho State Legislature, reporter Cheyenna McCurry also attended other events in Boise and Moscow over the past several weeks. As we had done earlier, we asked her to assemble her impressions together into a Reporter’s Notebook.
Idaho in Black & White: Race, Civil Rights and the Gem State’s Image
March 14, 2019
At a monthly Fettuccine Forum by Boise City Department of Arts and History, Jill Gill, a history professor and director of the Marilyn Shuler Human Rights Initiative at BSU, presented Idaho’s dark history of racial discrimination and the rise of the Aryan Nation.
Gill described that Idaho has been known as a “white flight destination” due to its lack of diversity and “safety valve” to block or flee civil rights legislation. In the 1970s, an Aryan Nation leader, Richard Butler, built a compound in the northern town of Hayden Lake, Idaho, which was eventually destroyed in 2001 after Butler went bankrupt. Gill believes a small Aryan Nation population resides in northern Idaho since Butler’s arrival.
Even though I was aware of Idaho’s disheartening history, Gill revealed individual stories and pictures that demonstrated every effort white conservatives took to keep out diversity. It was surprising to discover that a current state representative from district 1, Heather Scott, shared a photo of herself holding a confederate flag after winning the election in 2018. Scott’s victory shows where Idaho’s past still exists, which Gill believes greatly harms the encouragement for diversification.
I could tell Gill was passionate about the subject and was confident that her research could be used to help Idaho reflect on its past. Despite learning about Idaho’s history of undisguised racial hatred, Gill provided a honest depiction of what Idaho was and how Idaho changed. I would be interested in hearing about Gill’s position as director of Marilyn Shuler Human Rights Initiative and the organization’s policy involvement and studies.
Idaho DLCC Legislative Update Luncheon
March 16, 2019
At the Idaho Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee luncheon, Democratic legislators Representative Brooke Green and Senator Michelle Stennett addressed the audience about controversial legislative action.
(Cheyenna McCurry photo)
Both legislators expressed disappointment in the actions by leadership and frustrations with both chambers, which were attempting to hold bills. Green specifically discussed her experience as a freshman legislator and her position on the State Affairs Committee, while Stennett talked about the conflict between parties and leadership.
This was a very interesting event for me to cover during the session. The legislators were candid about their frustrations with their leadership and the Republican Party, which is normally not discussed in the Capitol. The event also revealed some things about the legislative process that aren’t elaborated on such as holding of bills and the relationship with leadership.
Although this isn’t a traditional interdisciplinary, I believe it would have been beneficial to have other legislators speak. Also, the event was a legislative update but almost solely focused on the disputed bills and actions happening at the Capitol. While the discussion on those were informative, it would have been valuable to talk about what the legislature has achieved in the session so far.
The event was certainly an interesting experience, especially during the session. Understandably, the discussion was filled with frustrations given the time of the session, but being the minority party, the speakers encouraged others to run for state office with strong campaigns.
Management of Wildlife Migration and Movement in Idaho: Keeping the Path Clear
March 26, 2019
At this Idaho Environmental Forum, Gregg Servheen, the wildlife program coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, discussed the migration conflicts of Idaho wildlife and humans, and the efforts the department is taking to improve travel for both humans and wildlife.
Servheen explained that migration is extremely important for Idaho wildlife. He said that wildlife migration improves fertility, but recent data indicates that Idaho wildlife are migrating to uncommon habitats to adapt to different environments and evolve. Servheen also discussed projects Idaho’s Department of Fish & Game and Transportation are prioritizing to decrease migration disruption.
I wasn’t aware of the substantial migration conflict, so this forum was very informative. The interesting aspect about this problem in Idaho is that the solution would benefit both Idahoans and wildlife. While wildlife such as deer and elk try to cross highways, they can cause car accidents, and if wildlife can’t cross other ways, populations decrease.
A few solutions were discussed; an underpass was constructed on a busy interstate where high wildlife traffic attempt to cross. This has been so far proven to work towards improving migration. Other projects such as barriers to guide wildlife and more construction of over and underpasses on busy highways are planned to further solve human/wildlife conflicts.
I would be interested in an update on how wildlife migration has been affected by the efforts to control migration. Highly populated roads are areas would probably benefit from these solutions most, but I believe similar solutions could better the wildlife migration in rural areas.
Is Gloom My Beat? Reporting On Our Changing Planet
March 27, 2019
I attended the City Club of Boise event on Wednesday, March 27th in Boise featuring Kendra Pierre-Louis, a climate change reporter for the New York Times. It was a casual question-and-answer discussion where questions from the audience were presented to Pierre-Louis.
(Cheyenna McCurry photo)
With questions about climate change science, the nation’s future and Pierre-Louis’ experience, she provided daunting details about what she’s witnessed while researching and covering climate change. Pierre-Louis pointed out that the recognition of climate change existence is politically influenced; countries like the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K. have divided perspectives based on political affiliation if climate change is real.
Through her reporting, Pierre-Louis learned that the vast majority of people believe that the world in warming up and that we have the technology to slow down climate change, but politically we don’t have the will. “We can’t out run climate change…living on Mars would be worse,” she said during the discussion.
Pierre-Louis kept the discussion light and the audience engaged with anecdotes on her favorite stories and interviewees. She expressed that one of the best parts of her job is the interactions with subjects, especially the ones with a first-hand realization of the impacts of climate change. Throughout the discussion, she was very open about her coverage of climate change; she advised the crowd to reduce plastic use and food waste while pushing for state policies to contribute to slowing down climate change.
Grand Innovation Prizes (GIPs) Are Absolutely Challenging Universities to Think Differently About Their Interactions
April 9, 2019
Gregory Moller, an environmental chemistry and toxicology professor, described how grand innovation prizes (GIPs) inspire creative solutions for urgent global problems in his presentation. Currently, the University of Idaho’s Team WaterQuest is a finalist for the $10 million George Barley Clean Water Science Prize Experience sponsored by the Everglades Foundation.
Moller explained the vast opportunities that GIPs provide to institutions and ultimately the world. While the U of I has the chance to win $10 million, the competition generates good publicity and more importantly displays what the institution can offer to the society. The U of I WaterQuest team built the Nexom clean water machine that could potentially clean polluted lakes and rivers.
GIPs are drivers for innovation. It was emphasized that even if the U of I doesn’t win the final prize, the team’s invention is a step closer to tackling water pollution and will challenge the institution to solve other global issues.
Moller’s presentation offered insights on the nation’s efforts towards solving global issues, but the details of the university’s WaterQuest team was the most interesting to learn about. However, I would have liked to hear from other members of the team and their experiences in the competition. I would also be curious to find out how the team got to the final product as well as any obstacles and unexpected events that might have happened during the process.
Water, Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink
April 16, 2019
Associate professor of the Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Ryanne Pilgeram presented the rural gentrification impact on the infrastructure of Dover, a former timber town in northern Idaho.
Pilgeram first discussed Dover’s timber infrastructure in the 1900s and transitioned into the loss of the timber mill, eventually leading to the current state of the rural town. Upon the unionization of the mill in 1988, closing a year later and burning down a couple years after, Dover began to decline. Pilgeram reported that the exploitation of natural resources and the capital system destroyed Dover, and the town continues to face job shortages, sewer, bridge and water problems.
I thought Pilgeram did well in her explanation of the research process and Harvey’s Theory of Spatial Fix. I especially found it interesting that through her research, she observed that any tapes regarding “the development” were blank and some other data was missing. I also appreciated that Pilgeram provided timeline pictures to show the deterioration of Dover after the fall of the timber industry.
Although I’ve lived in northern Idaho my entire life, I wasn’t aware of Dover and its unnerving history. Pilgeram reported that a bridge used daily by travelers is still unreliable and dangerous, but since the town is unincorporated, they can’t get state funds to fix this problem among others. Pilgeram concluded her presentation with some hope that Dover can be improved more and give former and new Dover residents a better place to live.
Idaho Women Win the Right to Vote
April 23, 2019
In this presentation, Department of History professors, Rebecca Scofield and Katherine Aiken, discussed the early history of women’s suffrage in Idaho, the prominent women involved, and the frankly bizarre way women’s suffrage was achieved in Idaho.
The professors were candid in their presentation, saying that the win for women’s suffrage was “lucky”. Aiken and Scofield revealed that Idaho suffragettes were able gain enough support for women’s suffrage in 1896 without rising controversy. This was because silver overshadowed the vote and took attention away from the significant achievement for Idaho women.
The presentation offered a different perspective from other events I’ve attended about Idaho’s history on women’s suffrage. The Idaho Women 100 launch event, commemorating the 100th anniversary for the ratification of the 19th Amendment, focused on the important women who ultimately secured the vote for Idaho women. Though Scofield and Aiken briefly discussed these women, they emphasized the odd circumstance of the nation’s attention on silver while the battle for women’s suffrage transpired.
Overall the lecture was very interesting, and the speakers kept the audience engaged with brief details and at times, humor. Notably from the presentation, the University of Idaho employed one of the first female faculty members, Annette Bowman, who was also a prominent figure in the grassroots organization Idaho Equal Suffrage Association that advocated for suffrage votes in 1896.
Posted May 10, 2019