The following article appeared in part in the IP News. It is the shared sentiment of this website and has been copied in part, edited to update information, and is re-published here with author permission.
(an opinion article)
We have had no VOICE in this.
We all know the ITD proposed public engagement schedule has been disrupted, we are still unsure what they intend to offer and when they intend to offer it.
One possible worrisome outcome was recently expressed to me. How do we address whatever is coming next, when and if it comes? If we do not want to meet with them at a meeting they have designed, might they say they did an outreach with us but we refused, therefore, they had no choice but to move on.
Multiple comments have been submitted to ITD concerning lack of Public Participation in this HWY 20 Corridor Planning Process. Simple question. To date, does anyone know exactly what it is ITD is proposing for The 20 Corridor and Targhee Pass? What is their plan, so far they are pretty quiet about that…but they do have one, and if you research clues can be found.
Multiple potential planning activities and prior correspondences between federal and state agencies and their select partnerships have already happened, and have resulted in a plan WE have had NO PART IN.
This potential corridor map link below can be found on the ITD HWY 20 Corridor Planning site. It is a support link to ITD’s potential ‘alternative’ solutions. All of the studies conducted up to this point will support it, what are we are going to be asked to participate going forward?
There is a lot more than just a potential safe passage structure build at Targhee Pass that is being sought after here. Interestingly enough, if you look at the project budget for ITD Dist. 6, in 2021-2022, they plan to invest 22 million dollars at Targhee Pass, sounds like ’someone’s’ already got a plan even though we are supposed to be thinking we are going to get the future opportunity to offer some ideas of our own?
The People of Island Park deserve to know that.
We have had no VOICE in this.
Very influential NGOs have their own plan mind, they are promoting the Island Park Safe Wildlife Passage Initiative, but ITD’s position in this was still publicly not made clear until the July 27th, 2017 meeting. Those many month’s of plans being made and potentials to consider have been put to paper and discussed…where were we? Where was our opportunity to have a voice?
There is a proper process for public participation. It has been neglected. Many serious questions have been raised concerning it, and the fact that Renee Seidler and Kim Trotter (Y2Y) had a safe wildlife overpass solution display at that public meeting confirmed that they have been participating as planning partners with ITD for a long time now. At that meeting, it should be noted, there was no community alternatives solution display for the visiting public to consider.
Now factor in the multiple studies and analysis work that research will show has been going on here for at least the last 3-5 years. Studies and potential considerations that only select groups have known about and have helped participate in.
NOT ONE of them has come in through the front door of the Island Park Community and said with full disclosure, ‘we have an idea that we want to share with you to see what you think about it.’
This plan has far more to it than the partnering NGOs and the federal and state agencies involved want to tell us. Initially, they just wanted focus to be on the roadway…but look again at the map.
Regional plans have the potential to change the human livability environment. Large landscape planning in the form of regional the coordinated NGO’s vision will change Island Park forevermore.
Fremont county and the community of Island Park should be given complete knowledge of that, every part, and understand the role every participating organization has had. Research will show that there are many who have been involved in the process to this point.
If partnering NGOs have had several years to collaborate with ITD on a plan for Targhee Pass, and the impact population has not, how can ITD even pretend that equitable opportunity and public engagement has been satisfied? The NGOs involvement does not-and should not, be allowed to qualify necessary and early public engagement requirements.
A writer to a local newspaper recently wrote in an article:
There is a point of ‘true beginning’ by which every proper and worthy legal description or process sources itself. If you do not begin from there, every calculus made from that point, is incorrect and will result in a flawed conclusion.
You cannot invent public participation that did not happen... after the fact.
You cannot erase the involvement of special interest groups, non-governmental organizations, and select partnerships. You cannot invite us to meetings and workshops that have long since been held. You cannot ask us to embrace fully prepared initiatives we had no voice or choice in committing to paper or agenda.
Surely, you will not ask us to embrace a product that we will have to live with, which will impact the human livability environment along the US HWY 20 Corridor going forward into the many future decades, in which we had no role in design? Once committed to an I-Plan, such project goals will be a resounding bell toll that cannot be un-rung. That would surely be far too much to ask of people, who were not included in any initial concept, study and analysis, or potential design process phase of a 10-20-30 year projected plan?
What began in 2010- 2012 for the federal and state government FHA/ID DOT, and collaborating public land and resource managing agencies and their select partners, is culminating in conclusions they have drawn. We are now at a point in the process where The Impact Population is being steered toward end results these many other interests have designed and have tailored their science to support.
It is by honest and full-disclosure metrics, an unacceptable and unworthy process, flawed from inception. It did not begin at ‘a point of true beginning’ and has neglected The Public that these governmental agencies serve, while it has heavily favored and involved the participation of non-governmental and special interest groups and their well published agendas.
I have raised a family. I recognized years ago the value of the strategy in times of conflict which offered my children alternatives, allowing them to make a preferred choice from among several. I had already pre-determined and designed the choices I offered to them. This two-fold strategy was deliberate. (1) the multiples created the illusion of their inclusion in the process and (2) gave them a sense of empowerment in their self-determination. Of course, all of the alternatives I offered were acceptable outcomes to me. It took them years to realize the choices they made in those circumstances, were choices I had already made for them before they were ever offered.
My opinion is that, any future alternatives that might be offered in this deeply flawed process, will be qualified by the same strategy.
I do not envy your position….trying to correct, what cannot be corrected.”
(copied with permission)
There are Public Laws that guarantee Public Participation that say it MUST HAPPEN AT THE BEGINNING when considering changes to USFS Public Land. The map clearly shows forestland will be involved.
In the case of the Federal Highway Administration and their state agencies the law is 23 CFR § 771.105(c).
Look it up. Other federal and state agencies have their own to which they are obligated.
The current HWY 20 Corridor planning process has not only violated the public trust of Island Park, ID IDT and their partnering NGOs, state agencies and select groups, serious questions have been asked…have they violated FHA's own policy?
We need to take our future fate into our own hands.
If work needs to be done at Targhee Pass, then we need to begin at the place where the county and the community assists in identifying the wants and needs, understands fully the intent of any project and the end goal. We need an equal opportunity to suggest alternatives and conduct studies toward goals we would like to see achieved here. A great deal of public money is being spent/is being budgeted toward, potential work on HWY 20 in the next few years. Federal and state government agencies work for us.
If regional NGOs want to advance their own private and published agenda, let them do it on their own dime, they should not be allowed to insert themselves inside of a public transportation project. There are no private/public partnerships that spend and commit public money, that should be allowed to exclude the public in either setting goals or making plans, and then expect the public check book to pay for it.
The ITD overlay map is troubling. Clearly it illustrates corridor planning and public forestlands will need to be involved. What designation will be ‘overlaid’ on The Targhee where multiple use is now allowed, but a future corridor consideration would share the same forest? The Continental Divide is here. Human use and enjoyment of that landmark is among the most valued in this region.
For the last two years the Island Park Preservation Coalition has worked on a legislative draft that seeks to keep Island Park-Island Park and prevent against new federal designations over public land, without local, state, and congressional involvement and support. That legislative consideration has been sent on to our Idaho senators with the blessing of the Fremont County Commissioners. The IPPC working group worked hard to draw that line in the sand given their community mandate to do so.
This new potential conservation community initiative being suggested as an alternative for Targhee Pass is also going to require it’s own line in the sand.
So Island Park, where do we want to go from here?
Do WE want to decide OUR OWN FUTURE, or do you want someone else to do that for us?
Making Sense of It All
This blog will help you make sense out of all the information on the website, how it affects IP, previous articles in the IP News, our history, and how efforts continue to put IP into various forms of conservation status.