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We’re not from the government and we’re here to help

Posted by Renee Magyar on May 11, 2011

Gina Knudson reflects on a trip to Washington, D.C.

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Merrill Beyeler, Kristin Troy, and Gina Knudson of Salmon, ID in Washington D.C.

This is my 3rd year traveling to Washington DC with Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition. RVCC's appeal became ever more clear yesterday afternoon as our small Idaho contingent met with Senator James Risch. Sen. Risch socked us with a despondent tone about the federal budget.

This is the prevalent mood on Capitol Hill -- the elephant that has filled up the whole room. I have no doubt these concerns are justified and I respect Senator Risch's overwhelming sense of responsibility; but as I looked around the table at my fellow RVCCers -- Gem County Commissioner Sharon Pratt, Joyce Dearstyne of Elk City, Lemhi Regional Land Trust Director and small business owner Kristin Troy of Salmon, Lemhi County Rancher Merrill Beyeler -- I thought, "Lean economic times are what we know best." None of our communities have enjoyed much boom in the theoretical boom and bust cycle. Merrill has watched the high school in his hometown of Leadore dwindle to 29 students. Meanwhile Joyce noted, "It's sad when your most valuable export is your youth."

We let the Senator know that we didn't come to RVCC to ask for earmarks or buckets of money. We know times are hard. We came to explain that the community-based solutions all of us in the coalition are working on give federal programs more impact on the ground, increasing efficiencies and creating rural jobs. We're not from the government, and we're here to help.

Gina Knudson is the director of Salmon Valley Stewardship in Salmon, Idaho.