Former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus Looks Back

Cecil Andrus says much has changed and much has stayed the same in the environmental and energy arenas since he was governor of Idaho–first in the 1970s, and then again in the 1990s, with four years as United States Secretary of the Interior under President Jimmy Carter in between.

Andrus, arguably Idaho’s most accomplished political leader, is the subject of a new biography written by Chris Carlson, an original member of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and a longtime Andrus aide.

Andrus, now 80, has slowed a bit, but he's still a keen political observer who stays current on environmental and economic issues.

As a politician, he was known for being a straightshooter, and that hasn’t changed. The current Idaho Legislature is “a bunch of damn idiots” for the way lawmakers have handled–or mishandled, in his opinion–important issues such as education funding.

He’s distraught over the increasing incivility of political discourse. “Sometimes when I look at what’s going on in the political arena–the arrogance of political power when it's so dominant in one area and there is no compromise available. Power does in fact corrupt.”

But he's not a defeatist. “Obviously, I’m the eternal optimist or I would not have done what I did for 50 years.”

In an upcoming interview in the Council Quarterly, Andrus talks about the ongoing controversy over salmon and the impacts of the four federal dams on the lower Snake River. “The salmon-runs issue hasn’t really changed. There’s been a lot of scientific information and speeches made about it, but the answers are still yet to come, and that hasn’t changed.” He also speculates on what is needed to finally resolve the dispute.

He’s concerned about the accumulation of nuclear waste in Idaho. “The biggest thing I see facing us is the nuclear waste issue here in Idaho.  You gotta have a home for it, and I don’t see any home on the horizon. Although we have a 1995 agreement that says all of it will be removed by 2035, I can look you in the eye and tell you it ain’t gonna happen. Because with Yucca Mountain’s disappearance there isn’t any place for it.”