Gov. Otter touts independence at Rigby event

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter addresses a group at the Rigby Senior Citizens Center on Wednesday morning. Rigby was “Capital for a Day” as the Governor and several other state leaders were in Rigby to field questions from residents. Monte LaOrange /

Rigby was made “capital for a day” Wednesday, though few Rigby citizens seemed to care.

State officials outnumbered residents by at least two-to-one as Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, several cabinet members and regional department representatives discussed public land management, state infrastructure, open government and the economy.

Rigby’s event, held at the city’s Senior Citizens Center, was the Otter’s 75th Capital for a Day.

“What we to do every month is pick a small, rural town,” Otter said.

The event targets small towns and usually eschews county seats. Larger towns, such as Idaho Falls, have ample representation in the state House and Senate with elected officials who can bring specific issues to the state leadership, Otter said.

“In more rural areas, there is not always that opportunity for face-to-face by citizens to engage (with state officials),” he said.

Otter said the events help bring to light unique issues facing rural areas.

“Capital for a Day in small town Idaho has really created a lot of decisions that were made that provided solutions in other small towns,” he said.

Much of Wednesday’s discussion revolved around federal regulation and its impact on the state economy and budget.

“We are constantly inundated with rules and regulations from the federal government,” Otter said.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore, for example, said his department is working to de-list species such as grizzly bear and bull trout, and to resist the addition of the greater sage grouse on the Endangered Species List.

“The Endangered Species Act, or some other federal management activity, doesn’t take into account the state’s needs or its sovereign responsibilities for wildlife,” Moore said.

Otter said he opposes new federal monuments, wilderness areas and other designations limiting land use.

“We don’t need you folks coming in and putting a tattoo on Idaho saying, ‘Stay out,’ ” he said.

Otter touted his request that Idaho partner with the federal government to allow state officials to make logging decisions on 1.8 million acres of federal land in the state. The plan is currently submitted and awaiting review by the Department of Agriculture, he said.

Office of Energy Resources Interim Administrator John Chatburn said the amount of federally controlled land in the state also makes build-out of power transmission lines difficult.

David Youngstrom, owner of Yellowstone Log Homes in Rigby, said his business had been threatened by a federal regulation requiring logs used in log home construction to be at least 14 inches in diameter, but he had gotten an exemption.

Grant resident Bruce Baxter commended Otter for his decision to establish an ombudsman position to oversee the release of public records by the state. He said he had faced difficulty obtaining inspection reports for a local bridge he worried was structurally deficient.

Maintaining good infrastructure, Otter said, is vital to the state economy because highways are the “economic corridors” to the state’s export markets.