Friday, December 26, 2014

Idaho well represented at the helm of U.S. Navy counter- piracy exercise with China

DESRON ONE Commodore CAPT Doug Stuffle (right) speaking to PLA-N media reporters on the value of cooperation between the US and PRC for countering piracy.

The U.S. Navy counterpiracy exercise with the Chinese People's Liberation Army (Navy) PLA-N began as of Dec. 11, off the coastal states in the Gulf of Aden and the Horn of Africa. Two of the ships participating in the exercise are led by Idaho natives. U. S. Navy Capt. Doug Stuffle, born and raised in Orofino, and CDR Ted Nunamaker, from Meridian.

Earlier this year, the Clearwater Tribune featured Capt. Stuffle who took command of Destroyer Squadron One in February of 2014. Destroyer Squadron One (DESRON ONE) is part of Carrier Strike Group One, embarked on USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70) and is currently deployed to Fifth Fleet.

The Strike Group, along with four ships, guided missile destroyer USS Sterett (commanded by Cmdr. Nunamaker), USS Gridley, USS Dewey, and USS Bunker Hill have participated in several multinational exercises.

In a recent article, “U.S. and China conduct anti-piracy exercise”, U. S. Navy Mass Communication specialists 1st Class Travis Alston and 3rd Class Eric Coffer, further define the purpose and goals of U.S.-China Counter-Piracy Exercise 15.

The following information appears in their article.

The cooperative training aims to promote partnership, strength and presence. It includes combined visit, board, search, and seizure operations, communication exchanges, and various other aspects of naval operations. Additionally, the exercise represents a long-standing united front toward counter-piracy operations shared by these two world powers.

“The exercise allows us to address our common regional and global interest,” said Capt. Doug Stuffle, “It helps both nations pursue a healthy, stable, reliable and continuous bilateral relationship.” 

Approximately 700 personnel from the U.S. and China navies will participate in the exercise, and it gives Sterett sailors the opportunity to engage in a shared mission with other surface platforms. 

“Piracy is a long-standing problem, world-wide,” said Cmdr. Theodore Nunamaker. “It has long been recognized as a problem that requires an international-cooperative solution. Certainly the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR (area of responsibility) is one of the focused points for that effort. Modern-day piracy has a far-reaching economic impact. Although much of the world’s population will never encounter piracy, it has an impact on everyone, by increasing the cost of goods that are being shipped from place to place.”

Stuffle expressed that Sterett’s crew, like all deployed U.S. naval forces, have trained to meet a variety of mission sets that are important to the nation’s interest and stand ready to execute anti-piracy measures when directed.

Both Stuffle and Nunamaker agree the ultimate goal of this exercise is to strengthen military-to-military relationships between the U.S. and its Chinese counter-parts. The navies of the U.S. and China conducted similar training Aug. 20 - 25, 2013.

“These bi-lateral exercises help us establish clear paths for communication; they encourage transparency of trust, help us mitigate risk and allow us to demonstrate cooperative efforts in the international community to help us work together to deal with transnational threats. In the end, we look to create a peaceful, stable and secure maritime domain,” said Stuffle.

Sterett is deployed as part of the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group and is supporting Operation Inherent Resolve conducting maritime security operations, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Christmas story from yesteryear

By Charlie Pottenger

Recently I was invited to Dining on the Edge for a Christmas luncheon celebration with the Clearwater Tribune staff. While enjoying the festive, happy mood I realized that the beautifully decorated Christmas tree with its fantastic red beaded garlands reminded me of days long ago and my mom.

Back in the 1940’s, Christmas was, as it is now, a very special season when we rejoiced in the truth of the Savior and celebrated as a family. In our family there were four kids, a devoted mom, a hard working dad, and not too much money. We were just like everyone else I knew, and although each family had different traditions, all celebrated and shared their love with each other and all that they contacted.

At our house Mom ran the show. Beginning about now, say a week before Christmas, she would organize her little tribe of “elves” into squads working under close supervision. She had us mix ingredients to make fantastic gingerbread cookies. The dough was then refrigerated (or if it was cold, set outside on the open porch to stiffen before rolling).

Then, each of us in turn were allowed to roll out huge dough sheets, and then we all gathered around with cookie cutters to punch out gingerbread men, stars, Christmas trees, bells, circles and half-moons. The circles and half moons were cut using a drinking glass. We also made shaped sugar cookies. Naturally she insisted that we make four batches of each type.

Of course we had to add colored sugar sprinkles to some and place dried currants on the gingerbread men to represent buttons. When each kid’s dough was processed into cookies and the leftover dough had been consumed by some of the sneaky elves, that batch was baked to perfection. We were each allowed to sample one warm cookie. Then we were put to work with needles and red thread to attach little loops to each cookie so it could later be used for tree decorations. Then she carefully packed the finished edible-decorations in wrapped containers for later use.

The next job was to follow the same procedures to work as a team to produce delicious cookies called thumbprints. Each cookie was topped with a bunch of chocolate chips set into a thumb made depression and topped with a half of an almond. When cooked the melted chocolate surrounded the nut. She had a hard time hiding these well enough to have them still around by Christmas.

She also made a delicious, round, powdered sugar, rum-soaked cookie. We were able to shake the hot cookies in the powdered sugar to create the finished look. Like the thumbprints, these were hard to resist.

As we moved closer to Christmas day, she would “force us” into the duty of popping huge bowls of super-big fluffy corn kernels. When each of us had a bowl of popcorn, which we made ourselves, she would place a bowl of fresh cranberries, our bowl of popcorn, and a big, empty bowl on the table in front of each kid.

We were provided with a needle and ten feet of red thread, which we used to make popcorn-cranberry garlands. The process was simple. You doubled the thread, tied a knot, and then started alternating cranberries and popcorn kernels until you had your own five foot garland carefully placed in the empty bowl. When done she had 20 feet of edible garland ready for the tree.

In addition, it seemed that each kid had decorations made at school. Some were paper art works, some were colored construction paper chains, and some were plaster shapes similar to the cookie cutter shapes, but bearing dates and love messages, mostly directed to Mom and Dad. Some of the plaster decorations had actual black and white photos of the maker for long term memory.

When all was done Mom would get Dad to put the tree up on the night before Christmas, actually on the morning of Dec. 24. After she had put on our two strings of the big, hot lights of the time (the little lights we now have weren’t yet invented), she would add the garlands of cranberries and popcorn, plus any paper garlands that showed up from school art.

The few beautiful glass ornaments she had were then placed high on the tree, and finally we were turned loose to hang up gingerbread decorations to finish it off on the lower branches. When done we felt, each year, that we had the greatest tree ever!

On Christmas Eve we would all gather around the tree with its gleaming lights and sing carols until Dad decided it was time. Then he would get us all together on the couch—Mom, Dad, and the four of us—and he would read us the Christmas story from the Bible. We would recite the Lord’s Prayer, followed by him reading us The Night Before Christmas!

After the tree was decorated we could pick the cookies from the tree and she would replace them until the stock was depleted.

We followed this routine for years, until life’s callings began to take aging kids to new places like college, careers, and marriages.

After Christmas Mom would leave the garlands of cranberries and popcorn on the tree and place it in the yard for the birds and squirrels.

I know that those memories were largely practiced as I raised my family; however, I failed to pass on the carefully thought out program my mom used to slowly approach the Christmas celebration with the cooking traditions and the garland crafts.

I think back now and wish I’d had the discipline to engulf my kids into the old tradition, which really enhanced the family togetherness, which I still crave.

We did continue the celebration with the Bible reading, carols, and The Night Before Christmas. Also at our house we always made the kids wait until Christmas morning to open presents. Boy did they have trouble getting to sleep and did I have trouble staying awake long enough to make it really believable!

I love Christmas and wish anyone that has read this far the merriest Christmas ever!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Campground and cabin rental fees to increase on the Nez Perce-Clearwater Forests

Regional Forester Faye Krueger recently approved the recommendation from the Coeur d’Alene Bureau of Land Management Resource Advisory Committee (BLM RAC) to increase recreation fees for several sites on the Nez Perce-Clearwater Forests.

The decision to increase fees was based on recommendations by a Recreation Fee Analysis (RFA) in 2011. This was in response to the combination of the two forests’ recreation program and to severely declining budgets.

Public involvement related to the RFA process yielded significant concerns about the proposal to consider concessionaire management but yielded very little concern about raising fees. The proposed sites have recently received significant investment to improve visitor services.

Effective Dec. 1, amenity fees increased at 24 campgrounds, one visitor center, and four lookout/cabin rentals on the forests. Reservations made prior to Dec. 1, 2014 will be honored at the previous, lower rate. Most of these sites are currently closed for the winter season.

Forest recreation opportunities are found in three large geographical zones: the North Zone, including the Palouse and North Fork Ranger Districts; the Central Zone, containing the Lochsa, Moose Creek (Selway River), and Powell Ranger Districts; and the South Zone which covers the Red River, Elk City, South Fork of the Clearwater and Salmon River Districts. Approved fee increases are as follows:

North Zone

Aquarius, Hidden Creek, Kelly Forks, Noe Creek and Washington Creek Campgrounds fees increased from $7 to $10 per night.

Laird Park and Little Boulder Campgrounds fees increased from $8 to $12 per night.

Elk Creek Campground (which has electrical hook-ups) fee increased from $15 to $20 per night.

Bald Mountain Lookout rental fee increased from $35 to $45 per night.

Kelly Forks Cabin rental fee increased from $55 to $65 per night.

Liz Butte Cabin rental fee increased from $20 to $40 per night.

Central Zone

Apgar, Wild Goose, Wilderness Gateway, Wendover, White Sand, Whitehouse and O’Hara Bar Campgrounds fees increased from $8 to $14.00 per night.

Jerry Johnson Campground fee increased from $10 to $14 per night.

Powell Campground sites without hookups increased from $8 to $14 and sites with hookups from $14 to $20.

Glade Creek Group Campground fee increased from $35 to $50 (for five camping spots) per night.

Lolo Pass Visitor Center new fees are $5.00 per day, $35.00 per season, $20.00 for 5 day bundle; eliminate $5.00 second car pass.

Castle Butte Lookout rental fee increased from $35 to $45 per night.

South Zone

Castle Creek and South Fork Campgrounds fee increased from $8 to $12 per night.

Fish Creek Campground fee increased from $6 to $12 per night.

Spring Bar Campground on the Salmon River fee increased from $10 to $12 per night.

Red River Campground fee increased from $6 to $12 per night.

Jerry Walker Cabin located near the Elk City rental fee increased from $20 to $40 per night.

Reserve lookouts and cabin rentals at:

For more information, please contact your local Forest Service office or visit our website at:

Friday, December 5, 2014

IDOC director moving on following long career in state government

After 18 years as an administrator for the State of Idaho, Brent Reinke is stepping down as director of the Idaho Department of Correction. Reinke submitted his letter of resignation today to the Idaho Board of Correction.

“It’s been an incredible run, but it’s time for me to serve in a different way,” Reinke wrote in the letter.

For 10 years, Reinke served as director of the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections. In 2007, he was appointed director of the Idaho Department of Correction, which incarcerates and supervises adult, felony offenders in Idaho. Reinke is the longest-serving director in IDOC’s history.

The chairman of the Board of Correction, Robin Sandy, says Reinke is a dedicated public servant and the entire board has great respect and appreciation for his commitment to improving the lives of the people of Idaho.

“For the past 18 years straight, Brent has logged long hours and he deserves a break from the great responsibility that falls on the shoulders of a correctional director,” said Robin Sandy, chairman of the Board of Correction. “While he has chosen to take a new path, he has much more to contribute, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he does next.”

Kevin Kempf will serve as acting director starting tomorrow. Kempf is a veteran correctional professional who rose through the ranks as a correctional officer, probation and parole officer and prison warden. Kempf currently serves as IDOC’s deputy director.

Orofino woman injured in Lewiston truck crash

Joyce Vanmeeteren, 69, of Orofino, was seriously injured in a car vs. semi-truck crash in Lewiston Tuesday afternoon, according to the Lewiston Police Department (LPD).

On Dec. 2 at approximately 1:40 p.m., Lewiston Police and EMS were dispatched to a report of a car vs semi crash on US 95/ US 12, at the Hwy 128 off-ramp next to the Rose Gardens.

According to LPD, Vanmeeteren was driving a 2011 Chevrolet Equinox. She failed to yield from a stop sign at the Hwy 128 off-ramp, and drove into the path of David Welch of Lewiston, who was driving a 2001 Peterbilt logging truck. Welch was heading into Lewiston on US 95/US 12.

Vanmeeteren reportedly has a broken leg and injuries to her hands and face, according to LPD. Medics transported her to St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston.

Vanmeeteren was cited for failing to yield, according to LPD.

The highway was blocked for approximately an hour and a half, while towing crews removed both vehicles.

The Lewiston Police Department would like to remind drivers to use caution anytime they are behind the wheel, and to be sure to buckle up.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Reflections from My Trail - The End of an Argument (A Fishing Tale)

By Charlie Pottenger

Wisconsin about 1968, Dad and I were up and on the lake before dawn and were witnessing another of God’s miracle mornings. Mist was rising from the warm water on a dewy July morning and we were casting huge lures over submerged weedy reefs in search of giant muskies.

These savage, pike-like fish are extremely hard to catch, but the explosiveness of their strike and the strength of their desire to escape make them one of the great American game fish, similar to the heavy fighting steelhead and salmon of the Clearwater.

As dawn progressed and changed the eerie silence of the calm predawn to the splash of light on the water, we cast into the rising sun and my Dad’s surface lure whirred and gurgled in the invisible glare. Nearing the boat with about three feet of line left there was an explosion in the water and Dad’s hands were stripped of his expensive rod and casting reel.

He looked dumbfounded at his empty hands and said, “Sh**ty! Sh**ty!” At the other end of the boat I shouted, “I told you so!”

Thus an ongoing argument between us was resolved. Over hundreds of happy vacation hours spent in the boat seeking these huge fighting fish we had noticed a major difference in the way we held our rods when retrieving the lures in hopes of one of those explosive strikes. The difference provided something to banter about during hour after hour of boring, non-productive sessions of fishing.

I maintained that the correct hold was to grab the rod with the left hand ahead of the reel and anticipate the strike so that the fish’s pull would only sink the rod deeper into the palm. Dad, on the other hand, maintained the rod was designed with a pistol grip so the left hand could comfortably hold it with the fingers only to resist the pull of the fish.

Day after day we rehashed the pros and cons of the proper grip and I always scoffed that someday a fish would steal his rod and prove my righteous position!

That wonderful morning I was finally justified and if Dad were still alive he would tell you that I made him remember that morning almost every time we were together thereafter.

To complete my story, I began gloating immediately! Dad was really sad to have lost his expensive rod, reel and lure plus a really nice musky. I joyfully ordered him to man the oars and get ready. “Get ready for what?” he exclaimed, trying to reestablish his fatherly authority.

Since I had a sinking lure I told him that the fancy star-drag reel he was using would catch in the weeds as the giant fish tried to rid itself of the pesky lure and sooner or later the fish would jump or surface, whereupon he should row like crazy so I could cast behind the fish, snag the line and ultimately catch the brute and reclaim the rod. He said, “Bullsh*t, son!”

Well, the fish surfaced, he rowed, I snagged the line and was able to pull the rod in. The fish was still on, Dad became overjoyed. He said, “Give me my rod!” I said, “Your rod? I just salvaged this rod and this now is my fish!”

I landed the fish, sold the rod back to my Dad for a dollar and had proof that his way of holding the rod was wrong!

This is my favorite fish story and I think of it often. I highly recommend all anglers with casting rods seeking heavy fish heed this advice. I must report that Dad never changed and caught many more muskies with his poor technique, but he never was allowed to forget.

My recommended grip while retrieving a casting reel in search of heavy fish. 
My Dad’s recommended grip while retrieving a casting reel in search of heavy fish, which doesn’t always work.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Christmas tree permits available at Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests

In this area, it is a popular tradition to begin the holiday season with an outing to the forest to cut the family Christmas tree. Permits are required for each tree you are going to cut. Permits are $5 each and are limited to three per family.

The permits can be purchased from any of our Forest offices or at the following local vendors: Harpster Store in Harpster, Tom Cat’s Sporting Goods in Kooskia, Rae Brothers Sporting Goods and Tackett’s Saw Service in Grangeville, Cloninger’s Harvest Foods in Kamiah, Helmer Store & Cafe in Helmer, Idaho Rigging in Potlatch, Tri-State Outfitters and Woodland Enterprises in Moscow, and DYNW (Discover Your Northwest) at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center, and Lochsa Lodge at Powell.

“Cutting a Christmas Tree on Your Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests” brochure is available at all forest offices and on the forest website at:

As a general rule, no special areas are designated for Christmas tree cutting. Here are some tips when choosing and cutting your Christmas tree:

Cut your tree at least 200 feet away from well-traveled roads, flowing water, campgrounds and recreation sites.

It is permissible to cut trees from the cut banks and fill slopes of lesser-traveled roads.

Select your trees from thickets or overstocked areas. Avoid removing trees from plantations or other areas where tree growth is sparse.

Select a tree that is the right height for your needs. Please don’t cut a large tree just to take the top.

Pile all discarded branches away from roads, ditches and culverts.

Cut your tree as close to the ground as possible. Stumps should be eight inches or less.

Attach a permit to each cut tree prior to transporting it in your vehicle.

For more information, call or visit your local Forest Service office.

Recipes from Home: Ready for the holidays

By Jo Moore of the High Country Inn

I have entertained at the High Country Inn for several years now with High Teas, and as a middle course served homemade scones with “clotted cream,” but have never enjoyed the messy hands that result from having to handle the scone dough.

Every recipe I have ever run across has called for cold butter, cut into tiny cubes, and mixed into the flour mixture until the butter is the size of peas.

Well, just this last week, on the spur of the moment, I decided to try to get some scones made in the hour I had before going to a morning meeting. In my hurry, before I knew it, I had softened butter and creamed it with the sugar before I realized with a jolt that I wasn’t on the road to making scones at all! So I gave that idea up and went to my meeting empty-handed, after calling myself several derogatory names (including “stupid”).

Later that day I decided to just go ahead and see if I could salvage what I had started, even if it meant wasting two sticks of expensive butter! After thinking a bit, this is what I did. I went ahead and added the bowl of mixed dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, turned the mixer on low and blended it just until the whole mixture was crumbly. I then added the liquid ingredients, and it all came together, and could be turned out onto my board without being sticky.

I couldn’t believe my good luck, and proceeded with getting the scones into the oven. The finished product was better than any I had ever made before. Thinking it might just be a fluke, the next day I decided to try the same method with two different recipes, and all turned out just the same! So I became anxious to share my “new” technique. Below is my recipe for pumpkin scones, ideal for serving for Thanksgiving breakfast, or any time you feel like a delicious scone! They also freeze wonderfully to thaw and reheat in the microwave.

Next week I’ll have a different scone recipe, following the same method, and another recipe for a festive Thanksgiving breakfast.
Luscious Pumpkin Pecan Scones

Have ready: 2/3 cup chopped pecans (optional, but delicious!)

Coarse granulated sugar for sprinkling

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease or line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone (Silpat) liners.

Cream until just blended:

1 cup butter (two sticks) softened

½ cup brown sugar, packed.

Mix together in separate bowl:

4 ½ cups regular flour

4 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

1 Tb. pumpkin pie spice (Or make your own, directions follow recipe)

In another small bowl, mix together with fork:

1 cup plain canned pumpkin

Two eggs

½ tsp. baking soda

2/3 cup whole milk or half and half cream

Directions: With mixer running, add flour mixture to butter and brown sugar, mix on medium high just until mixture is crumbly, scraping bowl once. Immediately add pumpkin mixture and ½ cup pecans, and beat on low until it just comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured board, and with your hands form dough into about an 11-inch round. Brush all over the top with half and half or milk, sprinkle over this coarse white sugar and rest of chopped pecans. Cut into twelve even triangles, using a bench knife or other sharp knife, place 6 scones on each baking sheet, at least two inches apart. Bake 10 minutes, rotate pans and bake another 3 or 4 minutes or until scones are lightly browned and firm. Let cool on pan. Ice the scones with Vanilla Glaze.

Make a simple vanilla glaze, with 2 Tb. warm milk, 1 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar and 1/2 tsp. vanilla. Mix with whisk until well blended, and thick enough to set up (add more sugar if needed.) Pour into a sandwich zip-type bag, close and snip a tiny bit off one corner. Use this as a piping bag and drizzle criss-cross over each scone. Scones can be made and frozen ahead for a delicious start to Thanksgiving Day or any autumn or winter morning or afternoon!

Pumpkin pie spice: (If you already have the following on hand. If not, it is probably less expensive to just purchase the prepared spice.)

Blend together, crushing any lumps:

¼ cup good quality cinnamon (Saigon or Ceylon)

2TB. Ground ginger

1TB. Ground cloves Mixture can be multiplied to keep on hand.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Clearwater County 4-H leaders inducted into Idaho 4-H Hall of Fame

During the 2014 Idaho State Leaders Forum in Lewiston Nov. 7-9, three Clearwater County 4-H leaders were inducted into the 4-H Hall of Fame. Oreta Stuart, who has been a leader for 43 years, was recognized for her time as a volunteer in the Idaho 4-H program.

Over a span of 43 years, Oreta Stuart has made her mark on the Clearwater County 4-H program.

Like many other Clearwater County youth, Oreta’s three children participated in the 4-H program. After taking 4-H cake decorating projects, one of her daughters actually became an employee of Wilton, Inc. in Portland, Oregon, giving cake decorating classes.

Oreta has been a project leader in art and leather craft for twenty-four years, and sewing for thirty years. She has helped members in completing their projects by scheduling time for them and at times providing necessary materials needed for completion.

Oreta’s commitment to the county 4-H program includes serving as community club leader for the Weippe Good Luck Club for eleven years and for Fraser Boosters for ten years, in addition to her project leadership in the two community clubs. In her role as community club leader, she oversaw leaders and their projects, worked with youth in organizing and completing community service projects, and encouraged youth to be the best that they could be. Additionally, she served on the fair board for 24 years. In 1986, Oreta received the Distinguished Service Award for Northern District I.

At the state level, Oreta participated in planning state leaders forums when Northern District I hosted, and she has also been a district representative to the State Leaders Association where she served three years.

Billie, a former 4-H member who spent six years in the sewing project under Oreta said, “Oreta is compassionate with the youth she works with. She took time away from her family to help 4-H members learn. She was a very positive person who made sewing fun.”

Laura Bell and Lawrence Judd were also recognized for their efforts in bringing 4-H to Clearwater County. Don and Larry Judd accept the service award on behalf of the Judd family. The following was shared about Laura Bell and Lawrence.

The life enriching 4-H program was established in Clearwater County by the efforts of Lawrence and Bell Judd.

Because of Bell Judd’s involvement in 4-H while growing up in Washington state, the Judd’s recognized and valued the experience that 4-H offers. Lawrence Judd, then a county commissioner, approached the University of Idaho about establishing a Community Extension Club, now known as 4-H, in Clearwater County. The Community Extension Club was established in 1936.

Bell Judd was one of the first leaders of the first Community Extension Club in the Clearwater County with her children Claude, Marie, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002 and recognized for 50 years of volunteer service, Harry, who became an extension educator, Clarabell, and Verla along with neighboring youth being members. A granddaughter also became an extension agent because of her 4-H involvement.

Bell Judd led the clothing, canning, and sewing in the community club. Bell Judd continued to lead and instill the life skills that 4-H is known to produce. Lawrence lent support and assisted with non-home economic projects. This leadership continued into the next generation of their family and other youth in the county resulting in 40 years of volunteer leadership. In the forty years of leadership, Lawrence and Bell helped youth attend regional and national 4-H events and be the best that they could be.

The marriage of Lawrence Judd and Laura Bell Reed established a family whose combined family participation in 4-H spans over 450 years. The impact of their efforts through time and monies expended continue today as Clearwater County continues offering the 4-H Youth Development program to youth throughout the county.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Quilts of Valor presentation on Veterans Day

The Central Idaho Quilt Guild will be hosting two Quilts of Valor presentations quilts on Tuesday, Nov. 11. One will be at the Orofino VFW Hall at 7 p.m., for veterans who live in Orofino.

The other presentation will be at the American Legion Hall in Kamiah at 2 p.m., also on Veterans Day, for veterans that live in the Kamiah, Kooskia, and Stites areas.

In order to receive one of these quilts, the veteran must have seen action in a war, be it World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan.

The public is invited to attend one or both of these very moving presentations.

Several ladies in the guild have made these quilts, some as a group and others individually. They come up with their own designs or one that has been suggested in a quilt magazine.

They use fabric they have purchased or some that have been donated to the guild for this purpose. Some ladies cut out the material for the quilts, some made the tops, some did the quilting, and some sewed on the binding. Some made the whole quilt themselves.

The guild will serve cookies, coffee, and punch at the end of each presentation.

September jobless rate falls as labor force declines

None of Idaho’s 44 counties saw unemployment rates reach double digits during September. Franklin County was the only county where unemployment rose between August and September, from 2.4 percent to 2.6 percent.

Six counties had rates below 3 percent, the lowest in Oneida at 2.5 percent. May of 2008 was the last time six or more counties experienced rates that low.

Clearwater County had the highest unemployment rate for September at 7.6 percent, down 1.4 percentage points from August. Last September it was 11.5 percent.

Lewis County’s September rate was 3 percent, down from 4.4 percent in August, and from last September’s rate of 5.5 percent.

Idaho County’s September rate dropped to 5.5, down from August’s 6 percent, and down from 8.4 percent in September 2013.

Nez Perce County’s rate for September was 3.6 percent, down a little from August’s rate of 4.1 percent. Last September’s rate in Nez Perce County was 5.1 percent.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent in September, its lowest level since May 2008. Last year September’s unemployment rate was 6 percent.

The state’s two-tenths of a percentage point drop in unemployment from August mirrored the national rate’s drop to 5.9 percent. September marked 13 full years that Idaho’s jobless rate has been below the national rate.

Employers across most Idaho sectors scaled back hiring in September, but still generated another 3,800 jobs, just below September’s 10-year average. New hires, primarily to fill existing job openings, approached 20,000, the highest September level since 2006.

Total employment remained essentially unchanged from August at just over 741,000 while the number of workers without jobs fell below 35,000 for the first time in more than six years, essentially accounting for the decline in the labor force.

Nearly 2,100 workers left the statewide labor force – many likely returning to school - making September’s labor force decline the largest one-month drop since February 2010. The state’s labor force participation rate – the percentage of working-age adults working or actively looking for work – fell to 63.3 percent, the lowest level since August 1976.

Since the series of severe recessions between 1980 and 1986 Idaho’s labor force declined only one other time between August and September – in 2013. Total employment also rose markedly from August to September in every other year except 2008 to 2010 during the recession.

Construction, manufacturing, hotels and restaurants and bars maintained employment levels slightly higher than normal for September, but the rest of the economy slipped against the five-year average. Services sector jobs, which pay an average of $12,000 a year less than goods production jobs, edged up three-tenths of a point to 84.5 percent.

Almost 12,700 more people were working in September than a year earlier, even though total employment has remained essentially flat since May. Total employment experienced similar stability during the same period in 2013, reflecting how gradual the recovery is occurring across the state.

Unemployment insurance benefit payments continued to run below year-earlier levels in September, totaling $6 million to a weekly average of 5,400 jobless workers. That compared to $6.5 million in regular benefits paid to a weekly average of 6,500 workers in September 2013 plus another $2.5 million in federally financed benefits to a weekly average of 2,800. Federally funded benefits ended at the close of 2013.

In addition to the six counties below 3 percent, another 21 counties and all five metropolitan areas had rates less than the statewide rate of 4.5 percent.

Friday, October 31, 2014

U.S. gas price to drop below $3.00 per gallon for first time since 2010; but sorry, not you, Idaho

Idaho average price is down 32 cents in past 30 days, but nowhere near $3.00

BOISE - (October 31, 2014) – The national average price of gas today will drop below $3.00 per gallon for the first time since Dec. 22, 2010, ending the longest streak above that price, according to AAA. But Idahoans hoping to get on the bandwagon may have to wait awhile.

Despite a 32-cent drop in Idaho’s average price in the past thirty days, Idaho’s $3.28 average mark is well above the national mark of $3.003. Idaho’s average price today for regular unleaded gasoline is seventh highest in the U.S.

“Consumers are experiencing ‘sticker delight’ as gas prices unexpectedly drop below $3.00 in much of the country,” said Bob Darbelnet, CEO of AAA. “Lower gas prices are a boon to the economy just in time for holiday travel and shopping.”

The national average price of gas has remained more expensive than $3.00 per gallon for 1,409 consecutive days. During that 46-month period, gas prices averaged $3.52 per gallon and reached as high as $3.98 per gallon on May 5, 2011.

The last time Idaho recorded an average price of $3.00 was February 8, 2011. Idaho’s average price today of $3.28 compares to $3.51 a year ago.

More than 60 percent of all U.S. stations are selling gas for less than $3.00 per gallon today. Consumers can find at least one station selling gas for less than $3.00 per gallon in nearly every state.

AAA anticipates gasoline prices may continue to drop in the near term, but it is possible that prices in many areas will begin to stabilize soon. “Unless there are unexpected developments, gasoline should remain relatively inexpensive this winter due to lower demand and typical seasonal trends,” said AAA Idaho spokesman Dave Carlson.

“As we’ve said previously, Idaho is slow to react to market factors, in part because there is no readily available competition due to the region’s limited market access,” Carlson said. “But prices should continue to drop in coming weeks.”

Lower crude oil prices, lower driving demand and the switchover by refineries to winter grade gasoline that is less expensive to produce are behind current lower prices.

Intermediate crude oil has dropped more than $20 per barrel since late June due to strong production and concerns about the global economy, particularly in Europe and Asia.

There are also reports that some OPEC nations, such as Saudi Arabia, would be willing to let prices fall to maintain a competitive market share.

Idaho communities show a range of prices today. Average prices: Boise, $3.31; Coeur d’Alene, $2.92; Pocatello, $3.18.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Idaho leases thousands more acres for oil and gas development

The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) auctioned oil and gas leases for 5,238.76 acres of State owned lands and minerals Oct. 15 in Boise.

The auction generated $263,229 in bonus bids for the State endowment trusts that support Idaho's public school system, Idaho State University, State Juvenile Corrections Center, State Hospital North, Idaho State Veterans Homes, and the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind.

The leases were for 600 acres in Cassia County; 4,478.76 acres in Owyhee County; and 160 acres in Gem County.

Trendwell West, Inc., was awarded leases on eight tracts for $190,000 in bonus bids, and AM Idaho, LLC was awarded leases on three tracts for $73,229 in bonus bids.

The average bid was approximately $46 per acre.

The highest competitive bid was $105 per acre on approximately 638 acres located in Owyhee County. The lease sold for $67,871.

With this auction, the total amount of State owned lands and minerals leased for oil and gas development is more than 97,900 acres. In 2014 alone, IDL held oil and gas lease auctions for more than 31,600 acres of State owned land and minerals, and generated more than $2.1 million in revenue for the State of Idaho.

Increased leasing activity is an indication of greater interest in developing the resource. Thousands more acres of privately owned lands and minerals are leased for oil and gas development.

All of the mineral rights auctioned for oil and gas leases are owned by the State endowment trust. Lands and minerals owned by the State endowment trust are managed under a constitutional mandate to generate maximum long-term income for public schools and other specific State beneficiaries.

Sixteen wells in Idaho are drilled and ready for development or already in development. The next auction for State oil and gas leases is scheduled for Jan. 21, 2015.

Open enrollment for Medicare prescription drug and Medicare Advantage plans

This is the time of year to review your Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Plan) and compare it with other Prescription Drug plans to make sure you have the plan that best fits your needs.

The open enrollment period to change your Medicare Part D plan for 2015 started Oct. 15, and ends Dec. 7. You can find and compare prescription drug plans on the web site. Also beginning in 2015 there are a couple of new Medicare Advantage plans available for those living in Clearwater, Lewis, and Idaho Counties.

If you do not have a computer or need assistance navigating the web site, Senior Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) are available on Thursday mornings and Fridays during the open enrollment period at the Ascension Lutheran Church in Orofino.

Please call 1-800-247-4422 to make an appointment. SHIBA is part of a nationwide organization of Medicare State Health Insurance Programs that supports and trains local counselors to help Medicare recipient’s access benefits and information about Medicare. All counseling sessions are free of charge.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Nez Perce-Clearwater Forests welcome hunters

Hunters have some good informational tools to choose from this hunting season to assist them in the Nez-Perce Clearwater National Forests. Recently, the 2014 Clearwater Forest Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM), Clearwater Motorized Travel Guide were released, and MVUMS and Nez Perce and Clearwater Visitor Maps can be downloaded on the Avenza app.

Adding to those three tools is the Mobility Impaired Hunter Access Program offered at some forest offices. This year, the Red River, Lochsa and North Fork Ranger Districts are participating in this program where hunters holding an Idaho Handicapped Persons Vehicle Hunting Permit and valid hunting license will be granted a permit to access certain closed roads.

One non-hunting assistant may accompany the mobility-impaired hunter behind the closed gate. The permits will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis by reservation only.

The Red River Ranger District is once again participating in the program and offers Trapper Creek Road #9550 in Hunting Unit 20 and Center Star Road #1110 and Moose Butte Road #1150 in Hunting Unit 15. For more information, or to reserve a road, please contact their office in Elk City at (208) 842-2245.

The Lochsa Ranger District offers three roads in Hunting Unit 12: Canyon Creek Road #445, Deadman Creek Road #5541, and Middle Deadman Creek Road #5543. For more information, or to reserve a road, please contact their office in Kooskia at (208) 926-4274.

The North Fork Ranger District has opened Lost Bugle Road #5222 to handicapped hunters. Persons taking part in the Mobility Impaired Hunter Access Program will be allowed to drive pickups, passenger cars and ATVs on Road #5222; the road is gated and usually off-limits to motorized vehicles. Hunting parties will be allowed to camp within ¼ mile of the gate. Camping beyond this point is prohibited. For more information, please contact their office in Orofino at (208) 476-8267.

There are approximately 2,961 miles of motorized roads, open yearlong or seasonally on the Clearwater National Forest. There are 1,400 miles of maintained trails in the Clearwater NF system. All of the trails are open to hikers and most are open to stock. Many are available for mountain bikes. Non-motorized trails are not shown on the MVUM. Some trails are available for motorcycles and small vehicles 50 inches or less, these trails are shown on the MVUM.

Make sure you learn which specific areas or hunting units are open to OHVs during big game hunting seasons. The Clearwater MVUM displays all National Forest System roads and trails allowing public motor vehicle use. Motorized use includes but is not limited to motorcycles, ATVs, and four-wheel drive vehicles.

OHVs wider than 50” are only allowed on roads open to motorized use during hunting season.

Staying on designated routes provides positive benefits to wildlife, water and other natural resources and social values.

Most scenic overlooks, historical sites and popular travel routes are still accessible to motorized users.

Motorized users may also access dispersed campsites (within 300 feet of most roads and 100 feet of most motorized trails, indicated on the MVUM).

You can use your trail machine to scout for game and access your hunting camp, but it's illegal to shoot big game animals from your OHV. (Hunters with a disabled permit are exempt from this rule.)

Park your OHV if you need to leave a trail or road to retrieve a big game animal. Big game retrieval with a motor vehicle is allowed only where the big game retrieval symbol is displayed on the MVUM. The MVUM will indicate the distance from the route that motor vehicles may be driven for the purpose of big game retrieval.

Stop by your local Forest Service office to get your MVUMS, Travel Guides and Forest Visitor Maps before your hunt or fall trip into the woods. Or visit the forest website at

Unemployment below double digits in Clearwater County

Clearwater County’s August unemployment dropped to 9.1 percent, the lowest it has been in 2014, so far. In July it was 9.4 percent, and last August it was 11.9 percent.

Nearby counties also saw a decrease from July. Idaho County also dropped from 6.3 percent to 6 percent, and was also down from last year’s August rate of 8.4 percent.

Lewis County dropped to 4.1 percent, from July’s rate of 4.5 percent. Last August Lewis County’s unemployment rate was 5.4 percent.

Nez Perce County dropped from 4.3 percent to 4.1 percent. The figure was also down from last year’s August rate of 5.2 percent.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate resumed its downward trend in August, dropping a tenth of a point to 4.7 percent as employers hired at or just below the norm for the previous five years.

August’s decline matched a tenth-of-a-point drop in unemployment nationally, marking nearly 13 years Idaho’s rate has been lower than the nation’s. Idaho’s rate was 6.2 percent in August 2013.

The lower state unemployment rate was a result of more than 600 workers leaving the labor force while total employment fell fractionally for the second straight month. Businesses hired 18,600 workers during August, almost all to fill existing job vacancies, while new hires remained below August 2013 levels.

Idaho’s labor force participation rate for August–the percentage of adults working or actively looking for work–dropped another tenth of a percentage point to 63.5 percent. It was over 64 percent a year ago.

Of the 1,500 new jobs employers added in August, mining, logging and construction all generated slightly more jobs than usual, as did financial services, business services and restaurants.

That pushed total nonfarm jobs back over 664,000, almost 15,000 higher than August 2013 and 54,000 above the low point in the downturn in August 2010, but it was still 1,100 short of the prerecession August peak in 2007. The economy had another 77,000 jobs in August 2014 that were not covered by unemployment insurance. Those included tens of thousands of self-employed.

While the August job gains were almost evenly split between goods production and services, Idaho’s economy has been steadily shifting to services. In August 2007 as the expansion was peaking, 19.2 percent of Idaho’s nonfarm jobs were in goods production, which pays an average of $12,000 a year more than services. In August 2014, 15.8 percent of the jobs were in goods production.

Unemployment insurance benefit payments continued to run below year-earlier levels in August, totaling $6.8 million to a weekly average of 7,500 jobless workers. That compared to $7.5 million in regular benefits paid to a weekly average of 7,700 workers in August 2013 plus another $2.7 million in federally financed benefits to a weekly average of 3,000. Federally funded benefits ended at the close of 2013.

None of Idaho’s 44 counties saw unemployment rates in the double digits last month. Only eight saw monthly jobless rates increase between July and August while seven others posted no change. The lowest rate was 2.5 percent in Franklin County, the third time in the last five months that Franklin has been under 3 percent. The highest unemployment rate for July was 9.1 percent in Clearwater County, down another three-tenths from July.

Twenty-four counties had rates below the statewide rate of 4.7 percent, and the Coeur d’Alene metropolitan area at 5 percent was the only one of the five metro areas with jobless rates higher than the state rate.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Down with the old, up with the new

The Woodlot Tavern and Café sign has been replaced with a Northfork Café sign atop the Ahsahka building. Photo by Tabby Haskett

A bright new sign atop the old Woodlot Café and Tavern went up last Thursday, depicting the new name that will soon be on everyone’s tongue for the place serving the famous Lumberjack and Lumberjill hamburgers. That name is the Northfork Café.

The Northfork Café will fill the void that everyone has felt since the old Woodlot closed last February. Deb Brown, the sole owner of the café, has been working tirelessly since Aug. 1, with the help of several friends, completely refurbishing and bringing the old café up to code, and making it a state of the art family gathering place.

Not only will Deb be serving the varieties of hamburgers which patrons have been used to for years, but will be adding her own personal touch to the menu, featuring her homemade pies, cinnamon rolls, apple fritters, and scones. Deb has a lot of experience in cooking and baking to back her up, having trained in Culinary Arts as well as working in delis which specialize in made-from-scratch bakery items.

Opening the Northfork Café fulfills a life-long dream of Deb’s, to own a place of her own, and to make use of her many creative talents. To those who have driven up and down North Fork Road in Ahsahka, it is evident that Deb has been hard at work these last two months, doing much of her own heavy moving, stripping and painting, in tandem with different plumbing, electrical, and cooling/heating contractors, and especially the Health Department, to bring the entire establishment up to code.

She has also done her own re-upholstering of all the chairs and stools, sanded and refinished the wood tables to make them look like new, refinished walls, ceilings, and the walk-in cooler. There are new counters, new ceiling fans, and a bright and sparkling clean feel to the café, including color-coordinated curtains and plants to add to the friendly environment.

Many old photos of life as it was on the old North Fork of the Clearwater River will adorn the walls, and stenciled fish inside as well as on the outside walls of the building will pay homage to the theme of this being the Steelhead Capital of the World. Anglers will be especially welcome, as Deb is a dedicated angler herself, and can keep up with the best of them with her fish tales.

A beautiful addition to the “new” café is a Bistro table with eight tall chairs to match, which will be where the old pool table was. This table can be reserved for groups of six to eight, and will be in use a lot, Deb is sure. The table and chairs were a surprise gift from friends Dave and Donna Clifford, and the set matches the dark trim of the beams in the ceiling.

A newly-upholstered padded bar edge and carpeted kickpad at the bottom of the bar will welcome those stopping in for a beer, and Deb is working with both beer distributors to ensure that favorite brews will be carried. Good quality wines will also be available for those with discerning taste for another beverage.

In addition to anglers, everyone will be welcome including hunters, bikers, families and groups, and according to Deb, special attention will be paid to those who are on short lunch hours and wish to put in a telephone order and have their food ready on their arrival for pick-up.

Watch for the grand opening

It is hoped that the grand opening will happen the first week of November. Deb will be serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, and in getting ready to open, not everything will be available all at once, until Deb sees that each segment of the business is running smoothly.

Everyone is asked to be patient with both the availability of all menu items as well as the parking situation near and around the Northfork Café, which remains limited at the present time, as it was when the old Woodlot was open.

Deb hopes that everyone is as excited as she is to see that the Northfork Café becomes the “new” tradition!

ICARE continues to grow

By Dee Crane

The local area organization that financially helps cancer patients, ICARE, continues to provide benefits to those who are actively undergoing treatment.

Several things have taken place since our last update. We are saddened by the recent loss of one of our Board of Directors, Barbara Opdahl of Pierce. She was a great mentor and inspiration to many. She will certainly be missed at ICARE.

The numbers have changed significantly and the group has now helped 133 people and issued $59,400.00!

One thing that remains the same is the fact that we continue to have 100% volunteer leadership and management. When people support ICARE, their contributions go directly to help those in need.

The “Gift of Love” given is now at $500 and is meant to show support from the hearts of many as one travels their journey through cancer.

As a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, government employees may choose to contribute through the Combined Federal Campaign.

An ICARE table will be set up at the Dig for the Cure event hosted by the Orofino volleyball teams. We invite everyone to come to the event Thursday, Oct. 2 at Orofino High School and participate in the heartfelt event that supports some great causes, including ICARE.

The many supporters over the past six and a half years have enabled the ICARE project to succeed and continue to help friends, neighbors and families in area communities. The chart below shows the number of people helped each year, the amount given each year, the wide distribution and thus the great need for the organization.

As we move forward into 2015, we will be looking to fill one position on the five-member Board of Directors. Anyone truly interested in being a committed and active Board member may contact ICARE at 476-5971.

If you or someone you know needs help from ICARE, contact us at 476-5971 or 476-7148.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Standardized tests, the death knell of American economic dominance?

By Robert Vian, School District #171 Superintendent

The current debate about Idaho Common Core and the change from Idaho Academic Standards Test (ISAT) is the wrong debate. While Common Core tests will require much more rigor in the classroom and are far superior to the old standards, they are just another standardized test. We should be discussing the impact of standardized tests on America’s ability to produce creative resourceful, imaginative, and talented individuals that will be needed for the nation to continue our dominant status in the world as an economic power.

A couple of historically significant events have created the slippery slope that education in Idaho and the nation attempts to stand upon.

The first was the Cold War of the 1950s and 60s and the launch of the first artificial earth satellite, Sputnik, by the Soviet Union in 1957. The U.S. suffered apoplectic shock, “How was a communist nation able to best a technological superpower like the U.S. in the race to be first into space?” When the Soviets also had the first man in space the sting was even deeper.

Politicians and educational experts started looking for explanations to describe the “failures in education.” Surveys of educational systems in industrialized nations in 1960 indicated that the U.S. math student ranked 12th in the world. No wonder we lost the “space race,” we were sliding into oblivion, how could the U.S. be a world power with math scores like that?

A second partially related event fueled the slide. Educational funding was erratic, while some schools had rich tax bases, others were not so wealthy. Educational advocates started campaigning for a level field (read this to mean equal funding) for all students within a state and across the nation.

When the Feds and the state began providing funds to equalize educational opportunities they started taking away local control of schools and demanded that funds were being spent wisely. Testing students to see if they had learned just made sense, but the tests had to be standardized to allow comparisons between schools and districts across the state. Every student had to be measured by the same standard, like a toaster or television set.

Producing a student capable of passing a standardized test, lead to standardized curriculums, not identical but highly similar. To insure that students were doing well in math, reading, and language arts, those subjects required more classroom instruction. States added additional math and science requirements. Districts had to add additional math and science teachers. With no new money other teachers (art, music, languages, drama, technology, and industrial arts classes) had to be cut. The classes that many students find interesting and the open doors for their individual futures are closed as schools prepare every student to attend a university.

In the U.S. we began chasing the great standardized test, taking nations like Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, Finland, Switzerland, and Japan, trying to create an educational system as “fine as theirs.” In Idaho we started mimicking other states. What did the standardization and emphasis on math and science for all students accomplish?

The U.S. student currently ranks 31st in math, and 24th in science. My mom told me that “once the horse dies I should quit beating it and get off.” Instead we are hell bent on bringing the horse back to life with cattle prods and training wheels.

While many shudder at the thought that we cannot compete with other nations on tests, we should consider what makes us the industrial leader of the world by a wide margin, and what those countries gave up to test well. In China two-year-olds start preparation for a college entrance exam sixteen years away. No country in the world focuses on all their students like the U.S. does. We test over 95% of our children. They test only their best.

China has 19% of the world’s population and each year applies for one percent of the world patents. China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the market value of all final goods and services from a nation in a given year, is 50% of the U.S. GDP. The U.S. Gross Domestic Product accounts for 22% of the world’s total GDP despite the fact that the U.S. population is only 4.3% of the total world population. If China produced at the rate the U.S. does, their GDP would be four and a half times the U.S. GDP, not one half our GDP.

We are chasing the wrong goal, and seem to be more obsessed every day with achieving that wrong goal.

Education should be about the maintaining our identity as a nation, raising children to continue our dream of a country where each generation is at least as well off as the past.

Training our youth to all be the same ignores what makes this nation the industrial leader of the world. Our creativity, perseverance, resourcefulness, diversity, and imagination is what makes us a great industrial power.

Yong Zhao, Presidential Chair for Global and online Education at the University of Oregon writes in his new book World Class Learners that in the U.S. at age five 98% of the kids tested are at the genius level “for creativity,” by age ten 32% reach the genius level, and by age 15 only 10% still score at the genius level. The number actually declines to about 4% during the work years (if I get creative I may lose this job). At about age 65, when people start doing things they like to do, the genius level increases, and some people become creative again. It’s hard to argue that we are encouraging creativity in schools or the workplace. It appears we are doing an outstanding job of destroying creativity.

The modern public school has become a sausage grinder, taking a young person’s creativity, diversity, resourcefulness, perseverance, imagination, and talent and turn out one product where all of the product is exactly like all the other products.

Other nations are now looking at the U.S. to see how we develop such creative students. How can they develop a Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin, Lady Gaga, Mark Zuckerberg, or Steve Wozniak? Steve Wozniak said, “When you’re very structured almost like a religion…Uniforms, uniforms, uniforms…everybody is the same.” Look at structured societies like Singapore, where bad behavior isn’t tolerated. You are extremely punished. Where are the creative people? Where are the great artists? Where are the great musicians? Where are the great singers? Where are the great writers? Where are the athletes? All the creative elements seems to disappear.

The Chinese are not ignorant or satisfied with the outcomes of their test oriented system.

The Chinese Ministry of Education wrote in 1997, “Our nation’s tendency to simply prepare for tests,…and blindly pursue admission rates to colleges and higher-level schools while ignoring the real needs of the student and societal development…pays attention to only a minority of the student population and neglects the majority; it emphasizes knowledge transmission…as well as the cultivation of applied abilities and psychological and emotional development; it relies on rote memorization and mechanical drills…Which makes learning uninteresting, hinders students…and prevents them from taking initiatives…hurting motivation and enthusiasm, squelching their creativity, and impeding their overall development.”

It sounds like they have learned what we have not, standardization stifles creativity. Other nations study the U.S. educational system because they think we know how to foster creativity, the reality is more likely that we have not progressed to their level of destroying creativity, yet.

We should demand that the educational system stop trying to produce cookie cutter students. A world class educational system should start with the student, consider their strengths and weakness, help them build on their weakness, but focus on their strengths. Rather than a funnel into the sausage grinder, education should be inverted so that a student’s creativity, imagination, and perseverance expands and grows with support from educators.

Living within our means, a summary of this year’s county budget

By Elizabeth Morgan

Between a myriad of Monday meetings on Sept. 22, I spoke with Clearwater County Commissioner Don Ebert concerning the 2014-2015 Fiscal Year’s budget.

I asked how this year’s budget compared to last year’s and if there had been any significant changes to report.

“We held the line on our budget, because as always we don’t know what our PILT or SRS funds are going to be. We were pretty conservative,” admitted Ebert. “There were no wage increases given this year to staff. There is no expansion. We don’t try to take on more than we can pay for, because we are pretty well where we need to be as far as what we can afford and live within our means.”

Ebert reported that the county has good fund balances and they want to keep it that way. “We cut back on our spending a long time ago, before we ran out of money so in that sense the budget is healthy.”

“There are a couple of things to consider when planning a budget based on projections,” Ebert said, “which in a lot of ways are just an educated guess. The main thing in my mind is how much is spent. Even though something is allotted for in the budget, doesn’t necessarily mean it must be spent.”

As in the process of setting most any budget, Clearwater County Commissioners put together the best estimate of what they believe the next year will hold as far as revenue and expenses. However, as in the case of funding from SRS and PILT, there’s really no way to do anything but give it their best guess.

I asked Ebert how severely the funds from SRS and PILT fluctuate from year to year. “The funds don’t fluctuate so much,” he responded, “the question is more about if congress will act and if we get them out or not.”

In the past, the county has received them every year. Some would say it’s a pretty safe bet that they will continue, but how far is the county willing to go out on that limb? “If you start talking about spending money that you don’t have yet, it’s kind of precarious.” said Ebert, “We’ve always opted towards the more conservative side and we have good fund balances because of that.”

Ebert shared that when there is an excess it is carried over to the following year’s budget. Auditors recommend sufficient money in the balance to run for three months or around 25% of the year’s budget, and in that case, there must be cash on hand to run the county.

As in other budgets, there are also the unexpected expenditures that come up occasionally, so the county budgets must consider budgeting more money than what is actually intended. The excess is always carried over. “It’s kind of hard to predict,” he said.

Winter weather plays into the ways the county’s unforeseen expenses. Depending on the amount of snow, time and resources to maintain the roads accessibility could consume a substantial portion of the budget. “I’m not sure if during the wintertime, the county could ever plow the roads often enough to keep everyone happy. But the roads are what they are and this is rugged terrain,” stated Ebert. “We do the best we can with what we have. Fortunately winter comes first and we have the rest of the year to adjust if needed.”

Ebert explained “You have to spend enough to keep the county functioning properly, but at the same time, we don’t want to spend it if it isn’t necessary. It’s a constant judgment call. We examine each item on a regular basis to make sure it is necessary. It’s a fine line and so far we’ve been pretty lucky. I feel we have provided adequate services and have done so within our means.”

“The county has enough to operate a couple of years to avoid running into a brick wall, should funding from SRS and PILT be cut,” assured Ebert, “but there would certainly be significant changes in the manner in which the county spends their money.”

Friday, September 19, 2014

Idaho gun range, geothermal bills advance

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two bills authored by Rep. Raúl Labrador cleared the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, offering solutions to regulatory burdens affecting constituents and industry in Idaho.

The committee passed H.R. 5040 the Idaho County Shooting Range Land Conveyance Act. The bill would convey 31 acres of Bureau of Land Management land to Idaho County (southeast of Clearwater County) for use as a gun range. This gun range would provide accessible firearms training for Idaho County residents, recreational opportunities for families and a convenient training facility for the Idaho County Sheriff’s Department. The Idaho County Commissioners have agreed to manage the land as a shooting range and work closely with local law enforcement to provide all necessary maintenance.

“As a matter of principle, the government closest to the people is the one that governs best,” Labrador said. “For years, the Idaho County Commission has been ready to install a gun range in the Riggins area. Because of cumbersome BLM regulations, they have been unable to acquire the necessary land. Idaho County residents deserve to have a safe location for recreational firearms use and this solution is long overdue.”

The committee also passed H.R. 1363, the Exploring for Geothermal Energy on Federal Lands Act. The legislation removes federal barriers to geothermal energy exploration while limiting environmental impact. It will allow for the development of clean geothermal energy resources on federal lands that will create jobs and provide low-cost energy to American families. In Idaho alone, geothermal energy has the potential to generate more than 800 megawatts. That’s enough energy to power more than 500,000 homes.

“Idaho has an abundance of geothermal potential that is unavailable due to bureaucratic impediments,” Labrador said. “Idaho has a unique history of developing geothermal energy. I served in the Idaho Legislature where our 100-year-old Statehouse is heated with geothermal energy, as are many Downtown Boise office buildings, homes near Warm Springs Avenue and part of the Boise State University campus. We need to harness this clean, renewable and reliable form of energy.”

Both bills now move to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

Earlier in the 113th Congress, the Natural Resources Committee approved two other bills sponsored by Labrador: H.R. 657, the Grazing Improvement Act and H.R. 1294, the Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act. Both bills passed the full House of Representatives and await Senate consideration.

Fire safety burn permits still required through Oct. 20

The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) is reminding citizens that fire safety burn permits are required through Oct. 20.

The permits can be obtained online at

Idaho law (38-115) requires any person living outside city limits anywhere in Idaho who plans to burn anything - including crop residue burning and excluding recreational campfires - during closed fire season to obtain a fire safety burn permit. Closed fire season begins May 10 and extends through Oct. 20 every year. 
The fire safety burn permit is free of charge and good for up to 10 days after it is issued. The duration of the permit as well as specific terms and conditions are established at the local fire warden level.

Anyone issued a burn permit is encouraged to print it out and thoroughly read it, to ensure the permittee understands conditions of the permit in their specific location.

The fire safety burn permit system will help inform fire managers where burning activities are occurring, reducing the number of false runs to fires and saving firefighting resources for instances in which they are truly needed. It also enables fire managers to respond more quickly to fires that escape, potentially reducing the liability of the burner if their fire escapes.

Questions about burn permits can be directed to staff in a local IDL office. Contact information for offices is located at

Friday, September 12, 2014

OCS blessed with good news and a new name: Freedom Place Drop-In Center

By Elizabeth Morgan

The facility formerly known as the Orofino Clean and Sober (OCS) Drop-In Center received a generous amount of tender loving care Sept. 6, as a group of 15 volunteers from both New Bridges Community Church and OCS spent the day organizing, cleaning and painting.

For the past few years, Orofino Clean and Sober Drop-In Center on Johnson Ave. has struggled to provide the community with a safe and alcohol free environment to “hang out.” They opened their doors to those in recovery so they might have a place to meet, play pool, socialize and put their lives back together.

As time went on, the cost to rent, heat, and maintain the facility became more and more difficult. In the attempt to keep the facility open, numerous fundraisers were held and the public was invited to hold other activities in the building for a small fee.

Still, the non-profit organization was in jeopardy of closing as the economy and limited funds were falling short of making ends meet. If the center was to remain open something short of a miracle would need to take place.

And it did.

The owners of the building, John and Judy Gilliam, reached out to Pastor Matt Potratz of New Bridges Community Church. They had heard that the church had been reaching out in various ways to help the community and asked if a meeting could be arranged between the Board of Directors for OCS and the church to see if there might be a way to keep the facility open.

Over the course of a few meetings and working together, a new plan evolved. It seems that more than a few prayers have been answered.

New Bridges Community Church will rent the building to use for various community events. OCS will be allowed to continue to meet there and use the facility as needed, free of charge. The public and those in recovery will still have an alcohol and drug free environment to convene. The facility will receive a little more attention, as a fresh coat of paint and a fresh start for all will hopefully encourage more activity and participation from the community.

The name will change from Orofino Clean and Sober Drop-In Center to Freedom Place Drop-In Center. Throughout the transition, the doors will remain open and the hours will stay pretty much the same as they are now.

The center is open to the public; anyone is welcome to “Drop-In” and hang out. Food and beverages are available to purchase daily, at very affordable prices. The center will also be available to rent for birthday or retirement parties, wedding receptions, etc., for a nominal fee.

“Have you ever wondered why that often the only place to hear live music or sing karaoke is in a bar?” asked Potratz. “We’re not there to preach or push a religious agenda,” he explained. “At times there may be bands playing Christian music, but other forms of music and entertainment will be offered as well. We’ll be there to love people and encourage them. After all, isn’t that what Jesus would do?”

Additional help is always encouraged and much needed. Anyone interested in volunteering with cleanup, restoration, and/or as daily help running the center would be performing a great service to our community. For questions, or more information, please contact Matt Potratz at (208) 791-7230, or by email at: Mattp@newbridgeschurch .com

Matt Potratz, Pastor for New Bridges Community Church in Orofino, helps to paint the interior of the building for Freedom Place Drop-In Center. As lunchtime approached, he was seen slaving over the grill out back, assuring his hardworking crew a tasty lunch, while others brought side dishes to accompany the meal.

Ryan Glaze set to work with the pressure washer, as both the front and back of the building formerly known as Orofino Clean and Sober Drop-In Center, received a good cleaning. While Glaze worked outside, others were busy inside, cleaning and painting.