With the Idaho Legislature now adjourned for the year, we who care for the Henry’s Fork and the Harriman Ranch in particular can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
House Bill 496 which carried a provision that could have resulted in ownership of the State Park being returned to the Harriman family died only shortly before the adjournment last week. This ended more than a month of fear and uncertainty for the future of one of Idaho’s most precious assets and, for now at least, that sinister cloud has lifted.
Winning the battle for Harriman did not come easy, as is the case for many threats that are politically based. With supporters that included the Governor firmly dug in, only a massive outpouring of public rejection was able to overcome such a formidable assault on the structure that has served to protect the gift agreement between the State of Idaho and Roland and Averell Harriman since 1965.
Those who may wonder of the stakes associated with Harriman reverting back to private ownership need only picture the status of property both directly above and below the State Park. And while the Harriman family might not be inclined to allow the kind of commercial and residential density existing in Box Canyon, Last Chance, and PineHaven, that fate is a distinct possibility. Equally difficult to consider is the loss of eight miles of public river access and thirty miles of trails.
It is unlikely that we will ever know the volume of letters and phone calls directed toward the defeat of HB496. Known, however, is that a trivial expression of resistance would never influence a stubborn politician. A big thank you goes to everyone that voiced opposition to the dangerous legislation.
From observation, I am convinced that prevailing in this highly problematic matter can be largely attributed to the Friends of Harriman and its President, Jodi Stiehl. From the beginning and throughout this conflicted time, it was Jodi and her group that led the way to victory.
While celebration is definitely in order, there is no time to relax. This is because HB496 is only one of many threats to be faced by Harriman in recent years and there are sure to be more.
If you are not currently a supporter of the Friends of Harriman, I urge you to become one.